The Ford Government Issues a Very Weak Policy Directive to Ontario School Boards on Addressing Requests by a Student with a Disability to Bring Their Service Animal to School


There Is No Assurance It Will Make It Easier for Students with Disabilities to Bring a Service Animal to an Ontario School

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

September 10, 2019

SUMMARY

On September 9, 2019, the Ford Government issued a palpably weak policy direction to Ontario school boards on how to handle requests by students with disabilities to permit them to bring a service animal to school. It is good that this policy direction requires every Ontario school board to develop a policy for dealing with such requests. However, it falls far short of what students with disabilities and their families need. It does not require those school board policies to be good. It does not ensure that students with disabilities will be more readily able to bring a service animal to school than has been the case in the past, even though the Tories talked about making that easier, during the 2018 Ontario election campaign.

The Ford Government’s new policy direction to school boards, set out below, reads as if the school boards themselves wrote it, in order to require little of them, while appearing to show provincial leadership. The provincial policy wastefully requires each of over 70 school boards to reinvent the wheel. It burdens students with disabilities and their families with having to once again lobby every one of those school boards. Doug Ford’s policy directive provides no assurance of consistency across the province.

There are several deficiencies with the new provincial policy directive. For example:

* The provincial policy directive ultimately leaves it to over 70 school boards to invent their own rules on when they will permit a student with a disability to bring a service animal to school. In that regard, it largely sets no provincial standards at all. Each school is to decide each case, on a case-by-case basis. That really says nothing new.

* While the new provincial policy directive refers in brief and summary terms to the duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, Doug Ford’s policy new directive ultimately leaves it to school boards to decide when it is “appropriate” to allow a student to bring a service animal to school. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not, however, make the test a sweeping open-ended and unpredictable one of “appropriateness”.

* The provincial policy erroneously does not direct school boards that they should allow for trial periods with a service animal before refusing this accommodation outright for a student.

* The provincial policy directive erroneously focuses on requiring or considering documentation from “medical professionals.” Of course, it should be open to a student with a disability or their family to bring forward medical documentation if they wish. However, doctors likely have no expertise in this area. People with disabilities have for years battled against the undue medicalization of their disability accessibility and accommodation needs.

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a seriously flawed decision in this area. The Waterloo Catholic District School Board had wrongly refused to let a student with autism bring his autism service dog to school. The family took the case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Shockingly, the family lost the case.

In a detailed article to be published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky shows that the human rights ruling is riddled with errors. Doug Ford’s new provincial policy directive does not address and solve those problems. That article can be downloaded by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/how-ontarios-human-rights-tribunal-went-off-the-rails-in-an-important-disability-accessibility-case-read-the-new-article-by-aoda-alliance-chair-david-lepofsky-on-the-tribunals-ruling-against-an/

Here, the Ford Government had a great opportunity to do much better that it has done. For years, Ontario has had a patchwork of different practices from school board to school board. Some allow service animals. Some do not. Some have no policy. The Ford Government could and should have surveyed the policies of those Ontario school boards that allow service animals, and drawn on the best of them to create a strong, inclusive provincial policy for all school boards to follow, that would be more favourable to meeting the needs of students with disabilities . Instead, the Ford Government dropped the ball and did a tremendous disservice to students with disabilities.

Perhaps the most stunning illustration of the deficiency in this new provincial policy is that under it, the family that fought the Waterloo Catholic District School Board a few years ago in that human rights case could well have ended up with the same refusal from that school board, had this provincial policy been in place at that time. It is a matter of public record that the mother of the student in that case, Ms. Amy Fee, has since won a seat in the Ontario Legislature, as a Conservative MPP. The Ford Government should have been prepared to do better for her and for the other families in her situation.

The Ford Government should quickly issue a supplemental policy to strengthen its weak September 9, 2019 provincial directive to school boards. It will also now be up to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee to try to set strong provincial accessibility standards in this area. The Ford Government had frozen its work for over one year. It is having its first preliminary conference call this afternoon to initiate the resumption of its work. MORE DETAILS
New Ford Government Policy Direction to Ontario School Boards on Allowing Students with Disabilities to Bring A Service Animal to School in Ontario

Originally posted at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/ppm163.pdf Policy/Program Memorandum No. 163
Date of Issue: September 9, 2019
Effective: Subject: Until revoked or modified
Application: School Board Policies on Service Animals
Directors of Education
Supervisory Officers and Secretary-Treasurers of School Authorities Executive Director, Provincial and Demonstration Schools Principals of Elementary Schools
Principals of Secondary Schools

Purpose
All school boards1 in Ontario are required to develop, implement, and maintain a policy on student use of service animals in schools.2 The purpose of this memorandum is to provide direction to school boards on the development and implementation of their policy. The ministry’s expectations regarding the components of a board’s policy are identified in this memorandum as well as the implementation and reporting requirements.

School boards are expected to:
* allow a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school when doing so would be an appropriate accommodation to support the student’s learning needs and would meet the school board’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code;
* make determinations on whether to approve requests for a service animal on a case-by-case basis, based on the individual needs of each student;
* put in place consistent and transparent processes that allow for meaningful consideration of requests for service animals to accompany students in school.

This memorandum applies to all publicly funded elementary and secondary schools, including extended-day programs operated by school boards. However, this memorandum does not apply to licensed child-care providers, including those operating on the premises of publicly funded schools.

Context

The Ministry of Education is committed to supporting school boards in providing appropriate accommodations to all students with demonstrable learning needs, including special education programs and services in Ontario’s schools.

The term “service animal” refers to any animal that provides support to a person with a disability. Traditionally, service animals have been dogs, and dogs remain the most common species of service animal; however, other species may also provide services to individuals with disabilities. The types of functions performed by service animals are diverse, and may or may not include sensory, medical, therapeutic, and emotional support services.
In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “AODA”) sets out a framework related to the use of service animals by individuals with a disability. The Blind Persons’ Rights Act sets out a framework specifically for the use of guide dogs for individuals who are blind.

People with disabilities who use service animals to assist them with disability-related needs are protected under the ground of “disability” in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Under the Human Rights Code, school boards have a duty to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (2018) states that: “Depending on a student’s individual needs and the nature of the education service being provided, accommodations may include . . . modifying ‘no pets’ policies to allow guide dogs and other service animals.”3

Nothing in this memorandum detracts from other legal obligations of school boards under applicable law, including the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Definition of “Service Animal”

In the context of this memorandum, “service animal” means an animal that provides support relating to a student’s disability to assist that student in meaningfully accessing education. Due consideration should be given to any documentation on how the service animal assists with the student’s learning needs, and disability-related needs (e.g., documentation from the student’s medical professionals).

School boards must make a determination, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether a service animal may accompany a student taking into account all the circumstances, including the needs of the student and the school community and a school board’s obligation to provide meaningful access to education.

School boards may also consider including service animals in training in their service animal policies.

Components of School Board Policies on Service Animals
When developing their policy on student use of service animals, school boards must respect their obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the AODA, the Blind Persons’ Rights Act, and collective agreements as well as other applicable laws and government policies. When developing their policies on student use of service animals, school boards are encouraged to consult with local partners, as appropriate.

Each school board policy on student use of service animals must contain, at a minimum, the following components:

Communication Plan. The school board policy should say how the school board will inform the school community about the process by which parents4 can apply to have their child’s service animal in the school. It should also say how it will inform the school community of the presence of any service animals at the school.

Process. The school board policy should lay out how requests for students to be accompanied by service animals in schools can be made and the steps in the school board decision-making process. School board processes must be timely, equitable, and readily available, and decisions must be based on a student’s individual strengths and needs.

Policies should include the following:
* a clearly articulated process for a parent to follow when making a request for a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school, including: o a primary point of contact;
o supporting materials for initiating requests(e.g., templates);
* information around the process through which a determination is made about whether or not a service animal is an appropriate accommodation. This could include:
o a meeting or meetings for all appropriate parties(e.g., parents, school staff) to discuss the request for a service animal; o a list of documentation that a parent must provide;
o a list identifying who must be consulted in making the determination;
* information about the factors the board will consider when making a case-by-case determination, including:
o any documentation on how the service animal supports the student’s learning needs and/or disability-related needs, including documentation from the student’s medical professionals; o the disability-related needs and learning needs of the student; o other accommodations available;
o the rights of other students and the needs of the school community; o any training or certification of the service animal;
o any special considerations that may arise if the animal is a species other than a dog;
* consideration of privacy rights of the student seeking to bring a service animal to school;
* information about how the school board will document its decision regarding a request. For example, if a school board approves a request, that information could be recorded in the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), if one exists;
* if the school board approves a request for a service animal: a process for developing a plan that addresses:
o the ongoing documentation required for the animal(e.g., annual vaccination records); o the type of support the service animal will provide to the student; o who will be the handler of the service animal while at the school;
o a plan for how the care of the animal will be provided(including supporting the safety and biological needs of the animal); o how the animal will be readily identifiable;
o transportation of the animal to and from school;
o time line for implementation;
* if the school board approves a request for a service animal: strategies for sharing information with members of the broader school community who may be impacted by the decision (e.g., other students, parents, educators, school staff, volunteers, Special Education Advisory Committees) and organizations that use the school facilities (e.g., licensed child-care providers operating in schools of the board), while identifying how the student’s privacy will be considered;
* if the school board denies a request for a service animal: a statement that the school board will provide a written response to the family that made the request in a timely manner.

Health, Safety, and Other Concerns. The school board policy should include a protocol for the board to hear and address concerns from other students and staff who may come in contact with a service animal, and from parents of other students, including health and safety concerns such as allergies and fear or anxiety associated with the animal. Wherever possible, school boards should take steps to minimize conflict through cooperative problem-solving, and/or other supports which may include training for staff and students.

Roles and Responsibilities. The school board policy should clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of students, parents, and school staff regarding service animals at school, taking into account local circumstances.

Training. The school board policy should consider strategies for providing training related to service animals, as appropriate, for school staff who have direct contact with service animals in schools.

Review of School Board Service Animal Policies and Data Collection. The school board policy should be reviewed by the board on a regular basis.

School boards are expected to develop a process for data collection and to collect data regularly, including, but not limited to:

* total number of requests for students to be accompanied by service animals; * whether requests are for elementary or secondary school students; * the number of requests approved and denied;
* if denied, the rationale for the decision, including a description of other supports and/or services provided to the student to support their access to education; * species of service animals requested and approved;
* types of needs being supported (e.g., medical, physical, emotional).

School boards should use this data to inform their cyclical policy reviews.

Implementation

School boards must implement and make publicly available on their websites their newly developed or updated policies and procedures on student use of service animals by January 1, 2020.

School Board Reporting
School boards are required to report to the Ministry of Education, upon request, regarding their activities to achieve the expectations outlined in this memorandum. This could include specific data collected.
1 In this memorandum, school board(s) and board(s) refer to district school boards and school authorities. This memorandum also applies to Provincial and Demonstration Schools.
2 2. This policy is established under the authority of paragraph 29.5 of subsection 8(1) of the Education Act and school boards are required to develop their policies on service animals in schools in accordance with this policy.
3 Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (Ontario: Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2018), pp. 5960.
4 4. In this memorandum, parent(s) refers to parent(s) and guardian(s).




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The Ford Government Issues a Very Weak Policy Directive to Ontario School Boards on Addressing Requests by a Student with a Disability to Bring Their Service Animal to School – There Is No Assurance It Will Make It Easier for Students with Disabilities to Bring a Service Animal to an Ontario School


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 Ford Government Issues a Very Weak Policy Directive to Ontario School Boards on Addressing Requests by a Student with a Disability to Bring Their Service Animal to School – There Is No Assurance It Will Make It Easier for Students with Disabilities to Bring a Service Animal to an Ontario School

September 10, 2019

          SUMMARY

On September 9, 2019, the Ford Government issued a palpably weak policy direction to Ontario school boards on how to handle requests by students with disabilities to permit them to bring a service animal to school. It is good that this policy direction requires every Ontario school board to develop a policy for dealing with such requests. However, it falls far short of what students with disabilities and their families need. It does not require those school board policies to be good. It does not ensure that students with disabilities will be more readily able to bring a service animal to school than has been the case in the past, even though the Tories talked about making that easier, during the 2018 Ontario election campaign.

The Ford Government’s new policy direction to school boards, set out below, reads as if the school boards themselves wrote it, in order to require little of them, while appearing to show provincial leadership. The provincial policy wastefully requires each of over 70 school boards to reinvent the wheel. It burdens students with disabilities and their families with having to once again lobby every one of those school boards. Doug Ford’s policy directive provides no assurance of consistency across the province.

There are several deficiencies with the new provincial policy directive. For example:

* The provincial policy directive ultimately leaves it to over 70 school boards to invent their own rules on when they will permit a student with a disability to bring a service animal to school. In that regard, it largely sets no provincial standards at all. Each school is to decide each case, on a case-by-case basis. That really says nothing new.

* While the new provincial policy directive  refers in brief and summary terms to the duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, Doug Ford’s policy new directive ultimately leaves it to school boards to decide when it is “appropriate” to allow a student to bring a service animal to school. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not, however, make the test a sweeping open-ended and unpredictable one of “appropriateness”.

* The provincial policy erroneously does not direct school boards that they should allow for trial periods with a service animal before refusing this accommodation outright for a student.

* The provincial policy directive erroneously focuses on requiring or considering documentation from “medical professionals.” Of course, it should be open to a student with a disability or their family to bring forward medical documentation if they wish. However, doctors likely have no expertise in this area. People with disabilities have for years battled against the undue medicalization of their disability accessibility and accommodation needs.

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a seriously flawed decision in this area. The Waterloo Catholic District School Board had wrongly refused to let a student with autism bring his autism service dog to school. The family took the case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Shockingly, the family lost the case.

In a detailed article to be published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky shows that the human rights ruling is riddled with errors. Doug Ford’s new provincial policy directive does not address and solve those problems. That article can be downloaded by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/how-ontarios-human-rights-tribunal-went-off-the-rails-in-an-important-disability-accessibility-case-read-the-new-article-by-aoda-alliance-chair-david-lepofsky-on-the-tribunals-ruling-against-an/

Here, the Ford Government had a great opportunity to do much better that it has done. For years, Ontario has had a patchwork of different practices from school board to school board. Some allow service animals. Some do not. Some have no policy. The Ford Government could and should have surveyed the policies of those Ontario school boards that allow service animals, and drawn on the best of them to create a strong, inclusive provincial policy for all school boards to follow, that would be more favourable to meeting the needs of students with disabilities . Instead, the Ford Government dropped the ball and did a tremendous disservice to students with disabilities.

Perhaps the most stunning illustration of the deficiency in this new provincial policy is that under it, the family that fought the Waterloo Catholic District School Board a few years ago in that human rights case could well have ended up with the same refusal from that school board, had this provincial policy been in place at that time. It is a matter of public record that the mother of the student in that case, Ms. Amy Fee, has since won a seat in the Ontario Legislature, as a Conservative MPP. The Ford Government should have been prepared to do better for her and for the other families in her situation.

The Ford Government should quickly issue a supplemental policy to strengthen its weak September 9, 2019 provincial directive to school boards. It will also now be up to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee to try to set strong provincial accessibility standards in this area. The Ford Government had frozen its work for over one year. It is having its first preliminary conference call this afternoon to initiate the resumption of its work.

MORE DETAILS

New Ford Government Policy Direction to Ontario School Boards on Allowing Students with Disabilities to Bring A Service Animal to School in Ontario

Originally posted at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/ppm163.pdf

Policy/Program Memorandum No. 163

Date of Issue: September 9, 2019

Effective: Subject: Until revoked or modified

Application: School Board Policies on Service Animals

Directors of Education

Supervisory Officers and Secretary-Treasurers of School Authorities Executive Director, Provincial and Demonstration Schools

Principals of Elementary Schools

Principals of Secondary Schools

Purpose

All school boards[1] in Ontario are required to develop, implement, and maintain a policy on student use of service animals in schools.[2] The purpose of this memorandum is to provide direction to school boards on the development and implementation of their policy. The ministry’s expectations regarding the components of a board’s policy are identified in this memorandum as well as the implementation and reporting requirements.

School boards are expected to:

  • allow a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school when doing so would be an appropriate accommodation to support the student’s learning needs and would meet the school board’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code;
  • make determinations on whether to approve requests for a service animal on a case-by-case basis, based on the individual needs of each student;
  • put in place consistent and transparent processes that allow for meaningful consideration of requests for service animals to accompany students in school.

This memorandum applies to all publicly funded elementary and secondary schools, including extended-day programs operated by school boards. However, this memorandum does not apply to licensed child-care providers, including those operating on the premises of publicly funded schools.

Context

 

The Ministry of Education is committed to supporting school boards in providing appropriate accommodations to all students with demonstrable learning needs, including special education programs and services in Ontario’s schools.

The term “service animal” refers to any animal that provides support to a person with a disability. Traditionally, service animals have been dogs, and dogs remain the most common species of service animal; however, other species may also provide services to individuals with disabilities. The types of functions performed by service animals are diverse, and may or may not include sensory, medical, therapeutic, and emotional support services.

In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “AODA”) sets out a framework related to the use of service animals by individuals with a disability. The Blind Persons’ Rights Act sets out a framework specifically for the use of guide dogs for individuals who are blind.

People with disabilities who use service animals to assist them with disability-related needs are protected under the ground of “disability” in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Under the Human Rights Code, school boards have a duty to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (2018) states that: “Depending on a student’s individual needs and the nature of the education service being provided, accommodations may include . . . modifying ‘no pets’ policies to allow guide dogs and other service animals.”[3]

Nothing in this memorandum detracts from other legal obligations of school boards under applicable law, including the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Definition of “Service Animal”

 

In the context of this memorandum, “service animal” means an animal that provides support relating to a student’s disability to assist that student in meaningfully accessing education. Due consideration should be given to any documentation on how the service animal assists with the student’s learning needs, and disability-related needs (e.g., documentation from the student’s medical professionals).

School boards must make a determination, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether a service animal may accompany a student taking into account all the circumstances, including the needs of the student and the school community and a school board’s obligation to provide meaningful access to education.

School boards may also consider including service animals in training in their service animal policies.

Components of School Board Policies on Service Animals

When developing their policy on student use of service animals, school boards must respect their obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the AODA, the Blind Persons’ Rights Act, and collective agreements as well as other applicable laws and government policies. When developing their policies on student use of service animals, school boards are encouraged to consult with local partners, as appropriate.

Each school board policy on student use of service animals must contain, at a minimum, the following components:

Communication Plan. The school board policy should say how the school board will inform the school community about the process by which parents[4] can apply to have their child’s service animal in the school. It should also say how it will inform the school community of the presence of any service animals at the school.

Process. The school board policy should lay out how requests for students to be accompanied by service animals in schools can be made and the steps in the school board decision-making process. School board processes must be timely, equitable, and readily available, and decisions must be based on a student’s individual strengths and needs.

Policies should include the following:

  • a clearly articulated process for a parent to follow when making a request for a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school, including:
    • a primary point of contact;
    • supporting materials for initiating requests(e.g., templates);
  • information around the process through which a determination is made about whether or not a service animal is an appropriate accommodation. This could include:
    • a meeting or meetings for all appropriate parties(e.g., parents, school staff) to discuss the request for a service animal;
    • a list of documentation that a parent must provide;
    • a list identifying who must be consulted in making the determination;
  • information about the factors the board will consider when making a case-by-case determination, including:
    • any documentation on how the service animal supports the student’s learning needs and/or disability-related needs, including documentation from the student’s medical professionals;
    • the disability-related needs and learning needs of the student;
    • other accommodations available;
    • the rights of other students and the needs of the school community;
    • any training or certification of the service animal;
    • any special considerations that may arise if the animal is a species other than a dog;
  • consideration of privacy rights of the student seeking to bring a service animal to school;
  • information about how the school board will document its decision regarding a request. For example, if a school board approves a request, that information could be recorded in the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), if one exists;
  • if the school board approves a request for a service animal: a process for developing a plan that addresses:
    • the ongoing documentation required for the animal(e.g., annual vaccination records);
    • the type of support the service animal will provide to the student;
    • who will be the handler of the service animal while at the school;
    • a plan for how the care of the animal will be provided(including supporting the safety and biological needs of the animal);
    • how the animal will be readily identifiable;
    • transportation of the animal to and from school;
    • time line for implementation;
  • if the school board approves a request for a service animal: strategies for sharing information with members of the broader school community who may be impacted by the decision (e.g., other students, parents, educators, school staff, volunteers, Special Education Advisory Committees) and organizations that use the school facilities (e.g., licensed child-care providers operating in schools of the board), while identifying how the student’s privacy will be considered;
  • if the school board denies a request for a service animal: a statement that the school board will provide a written response to the family that made the request in a timely manner.

Health, Safety, and Other Concerns. The school board policy should include a protocol for the board to hear and address concerns from other students and staff who may come in contact with a service animal, and from parents of other students, including health and safety concerns such as allergies and fear or anxiety associated with the animal. Wherever possible, school boards should take steps to minimize conflict through cooperative problem-solving, and/or other supports which may include training for staff and students.

Roles and Responsibilities. The school board policy should clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of students, parents, and school staff regarding service animals at school, taking into account local circumstances.

Training. The school board policy should consider strategies for providing training related to service animals, as appropriate, for school staff who have direct contact with service animals in schools.

Review of School Board Service Animal Policies and Data Collection. The school board policy should be reviewed by the board on a regular basis.

School boards are expected to develop a process for data collection and to collect data regularly, including, but not limited to:

  • total number of requests for students to be accompanied by service animals;
  • whether requests are for elementary or secondary school students;
  • the number of requests approved and denied;
  • if denied, the rationale for the decision, including a description of other supports and/or services provided to the student to support their access to education;
  • species of service animals requested and approved;
  • types of needs being supported (e.g., medical, physical, emotional).

School boards should use this data to inform their cyclical policy reviews.

Implementation

School boards must implement and make publicly available on their websites their newly developed or updated policies and procedures on student use of service animals by January 1, 2020.

School Board Reporting

School boards are required to report to the Ministry of Education, upon request, regarding their activities to achieve the expectations outlined in this memorandum. This could include specific

data collected.

[1] In this memorandum, school board(s) and board(s) refer to district school boards and school authorities. This memorandum also applies to Provincial and Demonstration Schools.

[2] 2. This policy is established under the authority of paragraph 29.5 of subsection 8(1) of the Education Act and school boards are required to develop their policies on service animals in schools in accordance with this policy.

[3] Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (Ontario: Ontario Human Rights

Commission, 2018), pp. 59–60.

[4] 4. In this memorandum, parent(s) refers to parent(s) and guardian(s).



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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.



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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 [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.



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At the Senate, Federal Disability Minister Carla Qualtrough Answers Senators’ Questions on the Weak Bill C-81 (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

April 23, 2019

SUMMARY

Here is a rare glimpse into how the Federal Government is thinking about the concerns that we and many others have expressed about the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

On April 3, 2019, the federal minister responsible for people with disabilities, Carla Qualtrough, appeared before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to kick off that committee’s study of Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. Minister Qualtrough made an opening statement to explain and defend Bill C-81. The Senators then took turns questioning her and her senior public service official, the Director General of the Office of Disability Issues James Van Raalte.

Many of the Senators’ questions sound like they were inspired in whole or in part by the AODA Alliance’s March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate and feedback from other disability organizations with similar concerns about the bill. We express our appreciation and gratitude for the Senators doing so.

Below we set out a series of 17 important excerpts from Minister Qualtrough’s presentation, with our comments on these statements. We will post her entire presentation to the Standing Committee on our website once it becomes available.

In our comments, set out below, we respectfully disagree with some of the minister’s statements, and explain why. In other cases, we identify key comments she has made which support the narrow package of amendments to Bill C-81 that we placed before the Senate last week, and asked for their adoption.

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. 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.`

Please help our campaign. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. We are so appreciative of the individuals and organizations that have already done so. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Excerpts from Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough’s April 3, 2019 Presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Plus AODA Alliance Commentary on Those Remarks

Excerpt 1

Minister Qualtrough: Bill C-81 complements the Human Rights Framework in Canada. It does not take anything away from existing human rights obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act or the duty to accommodate.

Our Comment: This is not correct. Section 172 of the bill re-enacts section 172 of the Canada Transportation Act. That provision provides that when the Canada Transportation Agency enacts an accessibility standard regulation, it in effect prevails over and can water down or cut back on the duty to accommodate passengers with disabilities.

If a CTA regulation says that Air Canada has an excessive five hours to help a passenger with a disability off an airplane when it arrives, that passenger cannot complain to the CTA that Air Canada could easily have accommodated them more quickly without undue hardship.

This is not a hypothetical fear. The Canadian Transportation Agency has proposed new accessibility regulations that, if passed, threaten to cut back on disability human rights. We explain this in detail in the AODA Alliance’s April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA.

We’ve been asking the Federal Government for months to remove s. 172 from the bill. The AODA Alliance’s proposed amendments to Bill C-81, now before the Senate, would remove s. 172 from that bill. That would help make the minister’s statement here become true. However the Federal Government has not yet publicly said that it would agree to a repeal of s. 172. Our 7th proposed amendment to Bill C-81, placed before the Senate, is as follows:

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

As well, our 8th proposed amendment to Bill C-81 that we placed before the Senate provides as follows:

Section 6 should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it:

“(2) For greater certainty, in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the provisions of that Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.”

Excerpt 2

Minister Qualtrough: Im extremely proud to say that the proposed accessible Canada act enjoys widespread endorsement and support from so many in the disabilities community.

Our Comment: The Federal Government has received widespread feedback from Canada’s disability community that Bill C-81 is too weak and needs to be strengthened. For example, see the Open Letter to the Federal Government which fully 95 disability organizations co-signed, and which was sent last October. See also the extensive feedback on Bill C-81 which disability organizations presented to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee. Disability organizations there repeatedly pressed for this bill to be strengthened.

Excerpt 3

Minister Qualtrough: As part of our whole-of-government approach, Bill C-81 builds upon the existing work done by regulators and, if passed, will strengthen their mandates to ensure accessibility in their sectors. This was demonstrated at the recent CTA announcement I attended, where the publication of draft accessibility regulations was announced, with the intention of making Canadas transportation system the most accessible in the world.

Our Comment: It may at first sound good that the Canadian Transportation Agency wants to make Canada’s transportation system the most accessible one in the world. However, after a closer look, it falls far short of what people with disabilities in Canada need and deserve.

What people with disabilities deserve and are entitled to is an accessible transportation system. Bill C-81 is entitled an Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The CTA’s much more diluted objective would be fulfilled if Canada’s transportation system were to become slightly more accessible than all others no matter how inaccessible all others are. In other words, by the CTA’s impoverished approach to accessibility, people with disabilities in Canada could end up having to put up with many accessibility barriers in transportation forever.

As well, we noted earlier that the CTA has proposed new transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the human rights of passengers with disabilities, a very troubling development to which the AODA Alliance’s April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA objects.

Excerpt 4

Minister Qualtrough: This approach ensures that accessibility is everyones responsibility and that we cant waste any time once the bill receives Royal Assent.

Our Comment: Regrettably, Bill C-81 does not ensure that we don’t waste any time once this bill receives Royal Assent. To ensure this, a series of mandatory time lines must be added to the bill.

Excerpt 5

Minister Qualtrough: Finally, the development of regulations has begun, with the CTA posting their first draft of accessibility regulations, and the consultation process has started for the development of the multi-year accessibility plan regulations.

Our Comment: This may seem a bit technical, but the regulations that the Canadian Transportation Agency are now finalizing are not being created under Bill C-81. They are being developed under the existing national transportation legislation that has been on the books for years. It is our understanding that these regulations have been under development for the past three years, well before Bill C-81 was introduced into the House of Commons in June 2018 for First Reading.

The Canadian Transportation Agency has had the power to make such regulations for many years. We anticipate that it was the fact that the Federal Government promised national accessibility legislation in the 2015 federal election that helped motivate the Canadian Transportation Agency to finally take a serious look at using its decades-old power to make comprehensive accessibility regulations in the transportation field.

Moreover, the CTA’s posting of those draft regulations is a matter of concern, as noted earlier, since they threaten to reduce human rights protections for passengers with disabilities, as the AODA Alliance’s April 22, 2019 brief to the CTA demonstrates.

Excerpt 6.

Minister Qualtrough: The Canadian Human Rights Act absolutely imposes a duty to accommodate. Nothing in this act changes that obligation on employers, on service providers and on program deliverers within the federal jurisdiction. There was confusion in provincial jurisdictions that had enacted accessibility legislation, and weve made every effort to avoid such confusion. Whatever standard is created by CASDO will not necessarily create any kind of defence for an employer, service provider or program deliverer in terms of their individual duty to accommodate a specific individual.

I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments for Excerpt 1, above, where we disagree with the minister’s similar earlier statement.

We also respectfully disagree with the minister’s statement that “weve made every effort to avoid such confusion” When this bill was before the House of Commons last fall, we asked the Federal Government to amend Bill C-81 to include language akin to the strong language on point in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Federal Government did not do so. Unlike this bill, section 38 of the AODA provides:

” 38. If a provision of this Act, of an accessibility standard or of any other regulation conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.”

We are troubled by the minister’s equivocal statement as follows:

“Whatever standard is created by CASDO will not necessarily create any kind of defence for an employer, service provider or program deliverer in terms of their individual duty to accommodate a specific individual.”

Compliance with a voluntary, non-binding standard recommended by the proposed new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization should simply not be a defence to a human rights complaint. Here the minister more equivocally said it is not “necessarily” a defence. That means that it could be a defence, in some situations.

It may be that the minister simply inadvertently misspoke here. However, her statement can contribute to the very confusion about the duty to accommodate that she wants to avoid.

Excerpt 7

Senator Munson: As you well know, the Senate is a chamber of sober second thought and we take looking at these bills very seriously. I am sure there will be an appetite for amendments by the time we are done our hearings.

On this particular sign language and other aspects of the bill, there are people in the community who feel it doesnt go far enough. Yes, well have it for the first time, and yes, its history in the making and that sort of thing, but it just doesnt go far enough. Would you be open to amendments?

Minister Qualtrough: I would certainly defer to your process and recommendations, but yes, I want to make this bill, this eventual law, the best it can possibly be.

Our Comment: This is a very helpful, positive and important statement by the minister. The minister herself is open to the Senate making amendments to Bill C-81 to make it the best law it can possibly be. This should lay to rest any fear that by making such amendments, the Senate would thereby jeopardize the bill’s passage.

This is further reinforced by the statement by Senator Munson (the bill’s sponsor in the Senate) during the Committee’s April 10, 2019 hearings:

“Were here for a reason. There are going to be amendments”

Excerpt 8

Senator Forest-Niesing: With respect to deadlines, provinces with an Accessibility Act, their own Accessibility Act, have an implementation deadline, especially for total accessibility. What was the reasoning in not having a deadline in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: To be honest, this is one of the more difficult differences of opinion as we have had as a disability community in this law and in this whole process. This is because there is a very honest and staunch belief within the community that we need a deadline, that we need to make a statement saying Canada will be barrier free by X or Canada will be accessible by X. And there is an equally passionate group of individuals who believe that setting a timeline in the distant future will give people excuse to wait to take action and also believe that because accessibility is always changing and evolving as a concept, and as technology changes and as we grow in our understanding and evolve around accessibility, we wont know what a barrier-free Canada looks like.

If we decided in this law to say by 2030 Canada will be barrier-free, first of all, Im not sure we could achieve that, quite frankly. Second, we dont know what barrier-free will mean and look like then.

I heard everyone, and we took back that feedback, and there are still some us of who are agreeing to disagree on this one. While we dont disagree that we need to work towards a barrier-free Canada, we dont agree about the need for that deadline.

Instead, weve chosen to focus on getting things started. Lets get the first regulation made within two years. Lets do a review of the act within five years of the first regulation. Lets put the board of CASDO in place this summer. Lets have the space for CASDO. Lets get things going.

That seemed to be the broader consensus. It certainly ended up being where we landed as a government.

Quite frankly, its not necessary legislative practice to create these kinds of statements. We dont have a criminal code that says we will be crime free by X date. We dont have a Human Rights Act that says we will be discrimination free by this date. Im not sure other jurisdictions have found it to be beneficial to have these timelines.

Every regulation that is established will have a timeline, so as soon as we have a standard, the regulation will say employers have to have this standard in place by X.

There will be built-in timelines. Some will be quick because were adopting an existing standard. Some will take longer because its a more complex issue.

At the end of the day, after listening to everyone, the decision was not to put that deadline in place. You will hear from stakeholders opinions that disagree with me and our government, but I assure you it has been thought out and considered. I respect their opinion, and this is where we landed.

Our Comment: We respectfully disagree with the minister. Our responses to her remarks are largely found in the April 11, 2019 presentation to the Standing Committee by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. We add a few points here.

Yes, new kinds of barriers will no doubt crop up in the future. That is a marginal factor. We nevertheless need this legislation to set an end date to reach full accessibility. A resilient flexible law can be designed to identify and adapt to address those new kinds of barriers as they come up.

The Federal Government’s repeatedly referring to accessibility as some sort of amorphous moving target is unhelpful. Overwhelmingly, we know what accessibility is and what is needed. Obligated organizations don’t need any further reasons to be reluctant to act in this area.

Contrary to the minister’s statement, there is substantial support among people with disabilities for including in this legislation an end date for reaching full accessibility. This is not a matter of a dispute among people with disabilities at the grassroots. Rather there is a dispute between the disability community on the one hand, and the Federal Government on the other.

The minister here repeated the Federal Government’s weak reasons for rejecting this request last fall when the bill was before the House of Commons. She again stated at the Senate:

“We dont have a criminal code that says we will be crime free by X date.”

Sadly, we know that there will always be crime. The Criminal Code is there to help reduce it, and to protect the public when it occurs. That is no comparison to disability barriers. Were it so, then the Government that is sponsoring a bill “to ensure a barrier-free Canada” is conceding before we even begin that we in reality will never achieve a barrier-free Canada. We believe Canada can do better than that.

The minister said that instead of including an end date in the bill for reaching full accessibility, they decided to focus on getting the bill’s machinery up and running over the next weeks and months. She said:

“Instead, weve chosen to focus on getting things started. Lets get the first regulation made within two years. Lets do a review of the act within five years of the first regulation. Lets put the board of CASDO in place this summer. Lets have the space for CASDO. Lets get things going.”

This creates the incorrect idea that we have a false choice that we must make. We must either decide to add an end date to the bill for achieving full accessibility, or we must instead choose to work on getting the bill’s machinery up and running quickly now.

The Federal Government did not have to choose one or the other, to include an end date for reaching full accessibility in the bill, or instead, to get started right away on getting the bill’s implementation up and running. The Federal Government can do both.

It is very commendable that the minister is so eager, active and enthusiastic about getting the bill’s implementation up and running so quickly. We caution that in 2005, her Ontario counterpart was just as energetic and enthusiastic just as the AODA was being enacted. A few years later, things started to dramatically slow down in Ontario. We have never gotten it sped up again. We need this bill to include strong time lines, tied to an end date, to prevent that from recurring at the federal level.

We have provided the Senate with a complete solution to the minister’s concern that the addition of an end date for full accessibility to this bill might lead obligated organizations to delay taking action on accessibility. We have recommended that the Senate add the following to the bill:

“Clarification
5.2. Nothing in this Act, including in its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, should be construed as authorizing or requiring any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers as soon as reasonably possible.”

Excerpt 9

Minister Qualtrough: Employment is definitely one of the seven areas recognized as an area of priority in the bill, and the bill applies to all areas of federal jurisdiction. It doesnt apply to areas of provincial jurisdiction. Other provinces do have accessibility legislation. Im encouraged by the fact that a number of provinces have basically put on hold their intention to create provincial legislation that parallels ours, waiting to see ours and then wanting to create something thats seamless in terms of the experience for the everyday Canadian.

Our Comment: We would consider it a backwards step for people with disabilities if any provincial government put on hold its consideration of developing a provincial accessibility law pending the passage of Bill C-81. We need provinces to speed up action in this area, not slow it down. We know the since-defeated BC Liberal Government had used the development of Bill C-81 as its excuse for continuing to dodge the development of a BC Disabilities Act.

If any provincial government has its planning efforts on hold, we would urge them to get right back to work now on developing provincial accessibility legislation.

Excerpt 10

Senator Moodie: Thank you, Minister Qualtrough, for your presentation today. As a physician and a Canadian, Im proud that were leaders in this space and that this bill is going to take us to the fore in continuing to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Canadians understand the needs of people with disabilities.

My question, though, challenges the bill a bit. The concerns Im hearing are around the notion that the federal government and various federal agencies will have, with this bill, the sweeping power to exempt organizations from a number of these important accessibility obligations. The government can even exempt itself; is that correct?

Can you speak to the extent to which the federal government and federal agencies can exempt organizations from accessibility obligations, and can you explain why you felt it necessary to exempt organizations from the obligations that are stated in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: Thank you for the question, senator. Again, this is not the first time I have heard this concern.

In this legislation, we had to balance wanting to encourage innovation so organizations that are already doing things very, very well with holding to account organizations that arent doing so well. Creating the opportunity for an exemption allows organizations that already have innovative and comparable accessibility practices to what we may create as a standard to get an exemption, because theyre already doing something that effectively has the same end results. At the same time, an organization that may need a little more time to get up to that standard is allowed the opportunity to be granted an exemption for a period of time.

This is not kind of an exclusion or a get-out-of-jail-free card. The reasons for granting the exemption have to be published publicly. It is not as though we are going to exempt you from ever having to be accessible. It is a recognition that, one, your practices are already akin to what is contained in a given standard, or two, you need a little bit more time to get up to the standard that has been established for a justifiable reason that will be made public and reviewed three years.

Senator Moodie: So Im hearing you say that in three years, even if I get an exemption the first go-around, I will be reviewed again.

Minister Qualtrough: Absolutely. The reason is technical.

Mr. Van Raalte: Youd actually have to reapply. Its not just a review. You have to initiate the fact that

Minister Qualtrough: It expires.

Mr. Van Raalte: It expires, and you would have to reapply, justify and demonstrate that you still require an exemption, from your perspective. Then theres still an approval process.

Our Comment: We disagree with the minister’s justification for the bill’s current exemptions powers. An exemption from this legislation’s requirements is not needed to encourage innovation.

If an organization is already meeting or exceeding the requirements of an accessibility standard, they have no need for an exemption. If they are close, but need a bit more time, that is typically and easily dealt with through the flexibility in the enforcement process.

Moreover, the minister spelled out the specific situations when exemptions are to be granted. Yet the bill does not limit the Government to only granting exemptions in those situations. For example, the Government could exempt itself for any reason it wishes, not just for the reasons that the minister gave (i.e. they need a little more time or are already in substantive compliance with the results that the standard seeks to achieve).

Excerpt 11

Senator Omidvar: Youve described the bill as a first or an incremental step. There are critics who say it is unnecessarily timid. Im going to read a portion of an email that I got that deals with splintering with a multitude of agencies being responsible for enforcement, regulation-making and overseeing complaints.

So the concern is that the bills implementation and enforcement are therefore less effective, it is more confusing, its more complicated, its more costly, and there is a variability of decision-making and possibly of standards. I hear this when the advocates say that this will make it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have and to get violations fixed.

So I understand the no-wrong-door approach, but I also understand that too much of a GPS with variability will make it completely confusing. Will you respond to this criticism?

Minister Qualtrough: I will. I, too, have received email maybe that same email and maybe more than once.

Senator Omidvar: We all did.

Minister Qualtrough: If I had a blank piece of paper, and I could design the system of my liking and choosing, it might not look like this. However, we didnt start out with a blank piece of paper; we started out with a fully functioning, complicated system of federal government that included regulators that were already doing this work regulators that, to be honest, we didnt always hear good things about and regulators whose powers we have beefed up.

But it became very clear very quickly as the design of the system started to take hold that we were in a position of having to either pull out from the CTA and CRTC. There are three at play here: the CTA, the CRTC and then the Canadian Human Rights Commission does everything else. In terms of the number of regulators, weve got the CTA doing transportation, the CRTC doing telecommunications and broadcasting; and then the Human Rights Commission doing everything else. Taking it out of the CTA or the CRTC would be costly. In some ways, at the end of the day, it wouldnt recognize the expertise they had built up and that they absolutely can and will improve upon.

But we heard very concretely and Im sure youll hear yourselves from the kind of more technically minded regulators that are the CTA and the CRTC that when youre designing and responsible for safety CTA airplane seat design comes to mind. The CTA is responsible to design an airplane seat, and the first consideration is safety, of course, and what has to be built into that seat design.

For an outside regulator to come in and say, Yes, you have to design a seat, but you have to take into consideration all of these accessibility needs, it was deemed better for the CTA to be the one to include and incorporate accessibility considerations into the design of that seat.

To be very clear, the non-technical aspects of the business of the transportation sector in Canada will be under the purview of the CHRC. So if theres a customer service standard, an employment standard, built environment standard those are all going to be imposed on the VIA Rails, the Air Canadas, et cetera. Its the more technical sides of those sectors that will be the purview of those specific regulators.

It was a compromise, because I recognize it makes the system more complicated for the complainant and the end user. Thats why weve taken the efforts we have even now. There are committees. The heads of the CTA, the CHRC and the CRTC are already meeting to figure out how theyre going to work together to make sure that from the complainants point of view it is seamless, but we know its more complicated. It was a sectoral approach that we chose as a compromise, recognizing we werent starting from scratch and recognizing the complicated technical nature of the business in which these two established regulators are in.

Im confident that there will be bumps along this road, but we will get to a place where whenever someone files a complaint, it will end up where it needs to be, and the chief accessibility officer and the chief accessibility commissioner will make sure of that.

Our Comment: Contrary to the minister’s suggestion, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC do not have demonstrated expertise in disability accessibility. Their insufficient performance in this area for many years suggests much the opposite.

We have warned that this splintering of the bill’s implementation and enforcement among different federal agencies is very confusing. It is hard to figure out from the bill who does what, as between the Accessibility Commissioner, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC.

The minister’s presentation reinforced this concern. She incorrectly described the division of responsibility between these agencies. She stated:

“To be very clear, the non-technical aspects of the business of the transportation sector in Canada will be under the purview of the CHRC. So if there’s a customer service standard, an employment standard, built environment standard –
those are all going to be imposed on the VIA Rails, the Air Canadas, et cetera. It’s the more technical sides of those sectors that will be the purview of those specific regulators.”

The minister here is saying that the Canadian Transportation Agency will be responsible for technical issues regarding transportation, but not things like the built environment. In fact, under Bill C-81, the Canadian Transportation Agency and not the Canadian Human Rights Commission is responsible for setting standards for the built environment in places like airports and train stations. Section 120 of the bill provides in part:

“120?The only regulations made under subsection 117(1) that apply in respect of a regulated entity that is required to comply with any provision of regulations made under subsection 170(1) of the Canada Transportation Act are those that relate to the identification and removal of barriers, and the prevention of new barriers, in the following areas:

(b)?the built environment, other than a passenger aircraft, passenger train, passenger bus, passenger vessel, aerodrome passenger terminal, railway passenger station, bus passenger station or marine passenger terminal;”

We sympathize with the minister’s confusion. This bill is itself very confusing and difficult to understand, even for those with extensive expertise in this area.

The minister said the Government is splintering the bill because of the costs of not splintering the bill. To our knowledge, this is the first time that the Federal Government has claimed that it would be more costly to have this bill’s accessibility regime all enforced by one federal agency, the new ,Accessibility Commissioner , rather than splintering it among four agencies. It is the first time the Government has claimed it would be more costly to have all regulations made by the Federal Cabinet, rather than splintering this responsibility among three agencies, the Cabinet, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC.

The Government offered no specifics on what these supposed added costs would be. It did not offset these against the greater costs under this bill, as written, to the Government, to people with disabilities and to obligated organizations of having this bill’s implementation and enforcement so splintered. For example, under the bill as now written, it will cost the airlines more to produce two separate accessibility plans and to deal with two different regulatory agencies, the Accessibility Commissioner and the Canadian Transportation Agency, than if they only had to prepare one plan and file it with one federal agency.

Excerpt 12

Senator Poirier: On Bill C-81, it does not include a deadline for achieving full accessibility, compared to the different provincial accessibility legislation, like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This act has clear deadlines for achieving the full accessibility for Ontarians on or before January 1, 2025.

Can you explain to us why you have not put a deadline established in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: Absolutely, senator. As I said, that was a topic of rigorous debate and discussion, and sometimes disagreement, over the course of going through this whole journey with respect to this legislation. Where we landed, as I said, was focusing on getting things started, not imposing a deadline that in any way would disincentivize organizations to get going on this. It was about recognizing that what we consider accessible today will not be good enough 10 years from now and knowing, quite frankly, that were a long way off from being accessible or barrier-free.

We concluded that it just wasnt the best way to get going on this. I dont know if I could elaborate further. At the end of the day, we figured putting in place the requirement that regulations and standards be put in place within two years by each of the regulators and that a review of the law happen within five years of the first regulation coming into force taking the steps in parallel now to get this thing off the ground and going was the better course of action.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments under Excerpt 8, above.

Excerpt 13

Senator Dasko : I guess another thing that Ive heard from some people who think this bill should go farther than it does has to do with the federal governments lack of intention here to take a stronger role when it comes to direct federal spending on infrastructure projects or spending in many areas where the federal government funds projects and creates projects and so on, the critique being that it doesnt go far enough in insisting that barriers are not there when these projects are undertaken. So just at the beginning, I suppose, before federal money is given to these projects, not enough is being done in this bill to ensure that those projects are barrier-free. Its a critique Ive heard, and Id like to hear what you might have to say about it.

(Procedural discussion omitted)

Minister Qualtrough: At the end of the day, what I would say is weve pushed the language in the law as far as we can go while still respecting federal jurisdiction. James is probably better to answer the technical side as to how far we can go, but this will apply to federal policies and federal programs. It wont apply to financial transfers like the health transfer because thats effectively a provincial jurisdiction that were helping to fund, but it doesnt give us authority, as I understand it, to actually impose that condition down that far. Maybe Im not explaining it right. I apologize. Its jurisdictional.

To be very clear, though, this will transformatively change the Government of Canada in terms of every department and agency will have to have an accessibility plan. We have already established in my office, for example, a centre for accessible procurement, meaning we will be having policies and processes. We wont procure things that arent accessible.

The Prime Minister has appointed a deputy minister responsible for an accessible public service, whose job it is every day to figure out how we are going to have to be ready and how we will be ready in our government with its employees to adhere to this law.

Can you talk to more about how far we can go down, please? Because I cant remember the language in the law.

Mr. Van Raalte: I think youve covered it, minister. Departments will have to be able to report on their programs, policies and services. They will have to do that reporting in consultation with people with disabilities. They are at the table for that. So that will actually give both the government and the public forward-looking perspective on the plans of those organizations, such as planned spending and program priorities in a forward-looking way that will allow us to have those discussions. You want to be thinking about the accessibility measures included in those investments.

Ms. Qualtrough: Having said that, in terms of whats in the law, weve taken a number of steps in parallel to embed accessibility into our new programs and our new processes. Ill give you an example. With the National Housing Strategy or our infrastructure program, accessibility is baked into these initiatives.

A fun example I like to give is around our infrastructure. Transit is a priority for our government. Historically, for whatever reason, whether it be oversight or intention, upgrades with respect to making buses more accessible have not been included as eligible expenses for communities to claim and use infrastructure dollars for. We literally added a box on a piece of paper three years ago where we told communities that they could use this money to make their community buses more accessible. In that one year, $810 million was spent on accessible transit. We didnt advertise it. We didnt highlight it anywhere. We changed the form, and communities recognized the values of accessible transit and invested in their communities.
I could give you so many examples, as weve pursued this law, of the things that weve done in terms of government policy, programs and initiatives to make the way we govern a more accessible experience, both for the people who work in government and the people we serve.

Our Comment: As the AODA Alliance presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 shows, we respectfully disagree with the minister’s claims that the Federal Government cannot do more here. The minister’s statements make it sound like the Federal Government is powerless to attach accessibility strings when it gives federal public money to a local or provincial government to help build a hospital, subway station, or university building.

This is incorrect. The Federal Government has a significant “spending power” which lets it attach federal conditions to federal money that it gives out. If a provincial government or other local organization doesn’t want to comply with those strings, it is free to simply refuse to accept the federal money.

For over three decades, the Canada Health Act, a federal law, has attached federal strings to federal money that is given to provinces to help finance their health care systems. One of those legal requirements is the accessibility of health care services (not in the disability sense of accessibility) If the minister is correct that the Federal Government has no power to attach strings to federal money that is spent in provincial areas of responsibility then she is admitting that the Canada Health Act is unconstitutional. That would be a surprising thing for a federal cabinet minister to claim.

We believe that the Federal Government could include in Bill C-81 a requirement that no federal cabinet minister or department may agree to give federal public money to any organization, federal or provincial, to contribute to the building or renovating of infrastructure, unless the recipient agrees to meet federal accessibility requirements. If the minister were correct, then the Federal Government is simply powerless here. It can give money to help fund the construction of a local subway station, but is powerless to say that the subway station must have elevators, and not just stairs, to reach the subway. We disagree.

This too is not a hypothetical issue. The AODA Alliance has produced a widely-viewed online video that shows serious accessibility problems at new Toronto subway stations, recently opened, that were built in part with federal money.

The minister gave examples of commendable new policies that the Federal Government has adopted to promote the procurement by the Government of accessible goods, services and facilities. We applaud these. However, they are merely policies, not legal requirements. A subsequent minister or Government could abolish or disregard them with the stroke of a pen, without requiring any public debate. That is why we want such requirements embedded in the bill.

Excerpt 14

Senator Kutcher: Thank you, minister, for your very clear and well considered answers to these questions. Our task is to try to assist in making the bill the best it can be. You mentioned one area that I think you suggested we could dive a little bit deeper on and that was the sign language domain. So my question is: Are there any other areas that you or your team

Minister Qualtrough: Boy, am I allowed to answer this question?

Senator Kutcher: would like to highlight as something we could have a more intensive focus on as we study the bill?

Minister Qualtrough: I think some sort of recognition, as you say, of sign languages as being the first language of Canadians who are Deaf is certainly what we have all heard and you will hear.

Senator Munson asked a question about the duty to accommodate, and perhaps to avoid confusion that could be explicit. I know it is at law and I would suggest case law has already clarified that point but I think it might be worth . . . nobody usually asks me that question.

Yes, I mean, if there are things that you think can be improved, certainly please explore that. My concern is getting it passed. I think its a really good piece of law and I wouldnt want anything to get in the way of that. Sorry to be so direct. The community has done such good work and I feel a real heightened obligation to deliver this for them. This is once in a generation and people have fought for a long time before me to have this conversation nationally. This is a genie we are not putting back in the bottle. Its pretty exciting. Sorry I dont have further feedback for you but those two would be at the top of my mind.

Our Comment: The minister here again indicates that she is open to amendments to the bill. That is helpful.

As areas that the Senators might focus on as part of their study of the bill, the minister referred to possible recognition that Sign Language is the first language of people who are deaf, and something explicit about the duty to accommodate. She said that those two items are at the top of her mind. She did not specifically commit to passage of amendments to that end. She commendably invited the Senate to explore things in the bill that “can be improved.”

Excerpt 15

Minister Qualtrough: May I add something on the duty to accommodate piece because its really important and kind of something Im obsessed with. We need to make it very clear to Canadians that this is a really important legally enshrined tenet of human rights law in this country and nothing we are doing here takes away any organizations obligation to accommodate individuals. In some cases, a small business who has complied with the standard might say, We have complied, and that might meet their duty to accommodate but the Government of Canada it might not. We need to be very clear and I need it on the record from me so I can sleep tonight that this in no way, in any way negates any organizations obligation to accommodate individuals on the grounds of disability.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments under Excerpts 1 and 6 above.

Excerpt 16

Senator Eaton: Minister, is there another country who does this better than we are going to do it? Is there another country that is an example to us?

Minister Qualtrough: Our neighbour to the south has the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has an anti-discrimination component which would be covered off in our country by the human rights legislation and an accessibility standards component. So we have spent a lot of time looking at their model. Its obviously a different kind of structured country, federal, state, but what Im hoping, because Im at heart a competitive athlete, is that this becomes the international standard that has built upon what other countries have been doing. The States has been doing it for 30 years, but I would like to believe ours will be better.

Our Comment: We commend the minister for wanting Canada’s new accessibility legislation to be better than the American legislation, and better than other laws around the world. However, as now written, Bill C-81 regrettably falls well short of that goal. It is also in some key ways weaker than Ontario’s AODA, which itself has run into significant implementation and enforcement problems over the past 14 years.

Excerpt 17

Senator Omidvar: Very quickly, you have talked about the fact that there is a timeline, that within two years agencies have to enact one regulation. However, what is the quality of that regulation? Is there a concern that it could be an inconsequential one, a minor procedural matter without actually embracing the spirit of what you are trying to propose?

Minister Qualtrough: I dont think the law provides the safeguard that you are asking about. What I do think, though, is that CASDO is that safeguard. So having CASDO created with a board of directors with a majority of individuals with lived experience, and they get to decide which regulations take priority and what comes first and what comes second and who does what and what the priorities are. That group of individuals will be tasked with making sure there are substantive regulations in place as quickly as possible based on their agreed upon priorities.

Our Comment: We respectfully disagree with parts of the minister’s description of this legislation. The minister correctly stated that the bill does not ensure that the regulation that must be enacted within two years is something more than an inconsequential procedural regulation.

However, she is incorrect in stating that the new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization is a safeguard to ensure that substantive regulations are enacted as soon as possible. CASDO has no such power under this bill. CASDO has no authority to enact any regulations whatsoever. It can only give advice. It can recommend what should be included in accessibility standard regulations. The Federal Government, the CRTC and the Canadian Transportation Agency need never listen to CASDO’s advice, and need never give a reason for refusing to act on CASDO’s advice.

As for the regulation that must be enacted within two years, that regulation is NOT an accessibility standard regulation. As the Senator’s question mentions, it is a procedural regulation that the Government must enact in the first two years. CASDO has no control over those procedural regulations. Contrary to the minister’s suggestion, CASDO is therefore not an effective safeguard to ensure that those regulations are meaningful.



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At the Senate, Federal Disability Minister Carla Qualtrough Answers Senators’ Questions on the Weak Bill C-81 (Proposed Accessible Canada Act) – Read the AODA Alliance’s Commentary on the Minister’s Key Answers


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

At the Senate, Federal Disability Minister Carla Qualtrough Answers Senators’ Questions on the Weak Bill C-81 (Proposed Accessible Canada Act) – Read the AODA Alliance’s Commentary on the Minister’s Key Answers

April 23, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here is a rare glimpse into how the Federal Government is thinking about the concerns that we and many others have expressed about the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

On April 3, 2019, the federal minister responsible for people with disabilities, Carla Qualtrough, appeared before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to kick off that committee’s study of Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. Minister Qualtrough made an opening statement to explain and defend Bill C-81. The Senators then took turns questioning her and her senior public service official, the Director General of the Office of Disability Issues James Van Raalte.

Many of the Senators’ questions sound like they were inspired in whole or in part by the AODA Alliance’s March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate and feedback from other disability organizations with similar concerns about the bill. We express our appreciation and gratitude for the Senators doing so.

Below we set out a series of 17 important excerpts from Minister Qualtrough’s presentation, with our comments on these statements. We will post her entire presentation to the Standing Committee on our website once it becomes available.

In our comments, set out below, we respectfully disagree with some of the minister’s statements, and explain why. In other cases, we identify key comments she has made which support the narrow package of amendments to Bill C-81 that we placed before the Senate last week, and asked for their adoption.

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. 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.`

 

Please help our campaign. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. We are so appreciative of the individuals and organizations that have already done so. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

 

          MORE DETAILS

Excerpts from Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough’s April 3, 2019 Presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Plus AODA Alliance Commentary on Those Remarks

Excerpt 1

Minister Qualtrough: Bill C-81 complements the Human Rights Framework in Canada. It does not take anything away from existing human rights obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act or the duty to accommodate.

Our Comment: This is not correct. Section 172 of the bill re-enacts section 172 of the Canada Transportation Act. That provision provides that when the Canada Transportation Agency enacts an accessibility standard regulation, it in effect prevails over and can water down or cut back on the duty to accommodate passengers with disabilities.

If a CTA regulation says that Air Canada has an excessive five hours to help a passenger with a disability off an airplane when it arrives, that passenger cannot complain to the CTA that Air Canada could easily have accommodated them more quickly without undue hardship.

This is not a hypothetical fear. The Canadian Transportation Agency has proposed new accessibility regulations that, if passed, threaten to cut back on disability human rights. We explain this in detail in the AODA Alliance’s April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA.

We’ve been asking the Federal Government for months to remove s. 172 from the bill. The AODA Alliance’s proposed amendments to Bill C-81, now before the Senate, would remove s. 172 from that bill. That would help make the minister’s statement here become true. However the Federal Government has not yet publicly said that it would agree to a repeal of s. 172. Our 7th proposed amendment to Bill C-81, placed before the Senate, is as follows:

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

As well, our 8th proposed amendment to Bill C-81 that we placed before the Senate provides as follows:

Section 6 should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it:

“(2) For greater certainty, in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the provisions of that Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.”

Excerpt 2

Minister Qualtrough: I’m extremely proud to say that the proposed accessible Canada act enjoys widespread endorsement and support from so many in the disabilities community.

Our Comment: The Federal Government has received widespread feedback from Canada’s disability community that Bill C-81 is too weak and needs to be strengthened. For example, see the Open Letter to the Federal Government which fully 95 disability organizations co-signed, and which was sent last October. See also the extensive feedback on Bill C-81 which disability organizations presented to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee. Disability organizations there repeatedly pressed for this bill to be strengthened.

Excerpt 3

Minister Qualtrough: As part of our whole-of-government approach, Bill C-81 builds upon the existing work done by regulators and, if passed, will strengthen their mandates to ensure accessibility in their sectors. This was demonstrated at the recent CTA announcement I attended, where the publication of draft accessibility regulations was announced, with the intention of making Canada’s transportation system the most accessible in the world.

Our Comment: It may at first sound good that the Canadian Transportation Agency wants to make Canada’s transportation system the most accessible one in the world. However, after a closer look, it falls far short of what people with disabilities in Canada need and deserve.

What people with disabilities deserve and are entitled to is an accessible transportation system. Bill C-81 is entitled an Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The CTA’s much more diluted objective would be fulfilled if Canada’s transportation system were to become slightly more accessible than all others – no matter how inaccessible all others are. In other words, by the CTA’s impoverished approach to accessibility, people with disabilities in Canada could end up having to put up with many accessibility barriers in transportation forever.

As well, we noted earlier that the CTA has proposed new transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the human rights of passengers with disabilities, a very troubling development to which the AODA Alliance’s April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA objects.

Excerpt 4

Minister Qualtrough: This approach ensures that accessibility is everyone’s responsibility and that we can’t waste any time once the bill receives Royal Assent.

Our Comment: Regrettably, Bill C-81 does not ensure that we don’t waste any time once this bill receives Royal Assent. To ensure this, a series of mandatory time lines must be added to the bill.

Excerpt 5

Minister Qualtrough: Finally, the development of regulations has begun, with the CTA posting their first draft of accessibility regulations, and the consultation process has started for the development of the multi-year accessibility plan regulations.

Our Comment: This may seem a bit technical, but the regulations that the Canadian Transportation Agency are now finalizing are not being created under Bill C-81. They are being developed under the existing national transportation legislation that has been on the books for years. It is our understanding that these regulations have been under development for the past three years, well before Bill C-81 was introduced into the House of Commons in June 2018 for First Reading.

The Canadian Transportation Agency has had the power to make such regulations for many years. We anticipate that it was the fact that the Federal Government promised national accessibility legislation in the 2015 federal election that helped motivate the Canadian Transportation Agency to finally take a serious look at using its decades-old power to make comprehensive accessibility regulations in the transportation field.

Moreover, the CTA’s posting of those draft regulations is a matter of concern, as noted earlier, since they threaten to reduce human rights protections for passengers with disabilities, as the AODA Alliance’s April 22, 2019 brief to the CTA demonstrates.

Excerpt 6.

Minister Qualtrough: The Canadian Human Rights Act absolutely imposes a duty to accommodate. Nothing in this act changes that obligation on employers, on service providers and on program deliverers within the federal jurisdiction. There was confusion in provincial jurisdictions that had enacted accessibility legislation, and we’ve made every effort to avoid such confusion. Whatever standard is created by CASDO will not necessarily create any kind of defence for an employer, service provider or program deliverer in terms of their individual duty to accommodate a specific individual.

I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments for Excerpt 1, above, where we disagree with the minister’s similar earlier statement.

We also respectfully disagree with the minister’s statement that “…we’ve made every effort to avoid such confusion” When this bill was before the House of Commons last fall, we asked the Federal Government to amend Bill C-81 to include language akin to the strong language on point in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Federal Government did not do so. Unlike this bill, section 38 of the AODA provides:

” 38. If a provision of this Act, of an accessibility standard or of any other regulation conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.”

We are troubled by the minister’s equivocal statement as follows:

“Whatever standard is created by CASDO will not necessarily create any kind of defence for an employer, service provider or program deliverer in terms of their individual duty to accommodate a specific individual.”

Compliance with a voluntary, non-binding standard recommended by the proposed new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization should simply not be a defence to a human rights complaint. Here the minister more equivocally said it is not “necessarily” a defence. That means that it could be a defence, in some situations.

It may be that the minister simply inadvertently misspoke here. However, her statement can contribute to the very confusion about the duty to accommodate that she wants to avoid.

Excerpt 7

Senator Munson: As you well know, the Senate is a chamber of sober second thought and we take looking at these bills very seriously. I am sure there will be an appetite for amendments by the time we are done our hearings.

On this particular sign language and other aspects of the bill, there are people in the community who feel it doesn’t go far enough. Yes, we’ll have it for the first time, and yes, it’s history in the making and that sort of thing, but it just doesn’t go far enough. Would you be open to amendments?

Minister Qualtrough: I would certainly defer to your process and recommendations, but yes, I want to make this bill, this eventual law, the best it can possibly be.

Our Comment: This is a very helpful, positive and important statement by the minister. The minister herself is open to the Senate making amendments to Bill C-81 to make it the best law it can possibly be. This should lay to rest any fear that by making such amendments, the Senate would thereby jeopardize the bill’s passage.

This is further reinforced by the statement by Senator Munson (the bill’s sponsor in the Senate) during the Committee’s April 10, 2019 hearings:

“We’re here for a reason. There are going to be amendments…”

Excerpt 8

Senator Forest-Niesing: With respect to deadlines, provinces with an Accessibility Act, their own Accessibility Act, have an implementation deadline, especially for total accessibility. What was the reasoning in not having a deadline in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: To be honest, this is one of the more difficult differences of opinion as we have had as a disability community in this law and in this whole process. This is because there is a very honest and staunch belief within the community that we need a deadline, that we need to make a statement saying Canada will be barrier free by X or Canada will be accessible by X. And there is an equally passionate group of individuals who believe that setting a timeline in the distant future will give people excuse to wait to take action and also believe that because accessibility is always changing and evolving as a concept, and as technology changes and as we grow in our understanding and evolve around accessibility, we won’t know what a barrier-free Canada looks like.

If we decided in this law to say by 2030 Canada will be barrier-free, first of all, I’m not sure we could achieve that, quite frankly. Second, we don’t know what barrier-free will mean and look like then.

I heard everyone, and we took back that feedback, and there are still some us of who are agreeing to disagree on this one. While we don’t disagree that we need to work towards a barrier-free Canada, we don’t agree about the need for that deadline.

Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on getting things started. Let’s get the first regulation made within two years. Let’s do a review of the act within five years of the first regulation. Let’s put the board of CASDO in place this summer. Let’s have the space for CASDO. Let’s get things going.

That seemed to be the broader consensus. It certainly ended up being where we landed as a government.

Quite frankly, it’s not necessary legislative practice to create these kinds of statements. We don’t have a criminal code that says we will be crime free by X date. We don’t have a Human Rights Act that says we will be discrimination free by this date. I’m not sure other jurisdictions have found it to be beneficial to have these timelines.

Every regulation that is established will have a timeline, so as soon as we have a standard, the regulation will say employers have to have this standard in place by X.

There will be built-in timelines. Some will be quick because we’re adopting an existing standard. Some will take longer because it’s a more complex issue.

At the end of the day, after listening to everyone, the decision was not to put that deadline in place. You will hear from stakeholders opinions that disagree with me and our government, but I assure you it has been thought out and considered. I respect their opinion, and this is where we landed.

Our Comment: We respectfully disagree with the minister. Our responses to her remarks are largely found in the April 11, 2019 presentation to the Standing Committee by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. We add a few points here.

Yes, new kinds of barriers will no doubt crop up in the future. That is a marginal factor. We nevertheless need this legislation to set an end date to reach full accessibility. A resilient flexible law can be designed to identify and adapt to address those new kinds of barriers as they come up.

The Federal Government’s repeatedly referring to accessibility as some sort of amorphous moving target is unhelpful. Overwhelmingly, we know what accessibility is and what is needed. Obligated organizations don’t need any further reasons to be reluctant to act in this area.

Contrary to the minister’s statement, there is substantial support among people with disabilities for including in this legislation an end date for reaching full accessibility. This is not a matter of a dispute among people with disabilities at the grassroots. Rather there is a dispute between the disability community on the one hand, and the Federal Government on the other.

The minister here repeated the Federal Government’s weak reasons for rejecting this request last fall when the bill was before the House of Commons. She again stated at the Senate:

“We don’t have a criminal code that says we will be crime free by X date.”

Sadly, we know that there will always be crime. The Criminal Code is there to help reduce it, and to protect the public when it occurs. That is no comparison to disability barriers. Were it so, then the Government that is sponsoring a bill “to ensure a barrier-free Canada” is conceding before we even begin that we in reality will never achieve a barrier-free Canada. We believe Canada can do better than that.

The minister said that instead of including an end date in the bill for reaching full accessibility, they decided to focus on getting the bill’s machinery up and running over the next weeks and months. She said:

“Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on getting things started. Let’s get the first regulation made within two years. Let’s do a review of the act within five years of the first regulation. Let’s put the board of CASDO in place this summer. Let’s have the space for CASDO. Let’s get things going.”

This creates the incorrect idea that we have a false choice that we must make. We must either decide to add an end date to the bill for achieving full accessibility, or we must instead choose to work on getting the bill’s machinery up and running quickly now.

The Federal Government did not have to choose one or the other, to include an end date for reaching full accessibility in the bill, or instead, to get started right away on getting the bill’s implementation up and running. The Federal Government can do both.

It is very commendable that the minister is so eager, active and enthusiastic about getting the bill’s implementation up and running so quickly. We caution that in 2005, her Ontario counterpart was just as energetic and enthusiastic just as the AODA was being enacted. A few years later, things started to dramatically slow down in Ontario. We have never gotten it sped up again. We need this bill to include strong time lines, tied to an end date, to prevent that from recurring at the federal level.

We have provided the Senate with a complete solution to the minister’s concern that the addition of an end date for full accessibility to this bill might lead obligated organizations to delay taking action on accessibility. We have recommended that the Senate add the following to the bill:

“Clarification

5.2. Nothing in this Act, including in its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, should be construed as authorizing or requiring any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers as soon as reasonably possible.”

Excerpt 9

Minister Qualtrough: Employment is definitely one of the seven areas recognized as an area of priority in the bill, and the bill applies to all areas of federal jurisdiction. It doesn’t apply to areas of provincial jurisdiction. Other provinces do have accessibility legislation. I’m encouraged by the fact that a number of provinces have basically put on hold their intention to create provincial legislation that parallels ours, waiting to see ours and then wanting to create something that’s seamless in terms of the experience for the everyday Canadian.

Our Comment: We would consider it a backwards step for people with disabilities if any provincial government put on hold its consideration of developing a provincial accessibility law pending the passage of Bill C-81. We need provinces to speed up action in this area, not slow it down. We know the since-defeated BC Liberal Government had used the development of Bill C-81 as its excuse for continuing to dodge the development of a BC Disabilities Act.

If any provincial government has its planning efforts on hold, we would urge them to get right back to work now on developing provincial accessibility legislation.

Excerpt 10

Senator Moodie: Thank you, Minister Qualtrough, for your presentation today. As a physician and a Canadian, I’m proud that we’re leaders in this space and that this bill is going to take us to the fore in continuing to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Canadians understand the needs of people with disabilities.

My question, though, challenges the bill a bit. The concerns I’m hearing are around the notion that the federal government and various federal agencies will have, with this bill, the sweeping power to exempt organizations from a number of these important accessibility obligations. The government can even exempt itself; is that correct?

Can you speak to the extent to which the federal government and federal agencies can exempt organizations from accessibility obligations, and can you explain why you felt it necessary to exempt organizations from the obligations that are stated in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: Thank you for the question, senator. Again, this is not the first time I have heard this concern.

In this legislation, we had to balance wanting to encourage innovation — so organizations that are already doing things very, very well — with holding to account organizations that aren’t doing so well. Creating the opportunity for an exemption allows organizations that already have innovative and comparable accessibility practices to what we may create as a standard to get an exemption, because they’re already doing something that effectively has the same end results. At the same time, an organization that may need a little more time to get up to that standard is allowed the opportunity to be granted an exemption for a period of time.

This is not kind of an exclusion or a get-out-of-jail-free card. The reasons for granting the exemption have to be published publicly. It is not as though we are going to exempt you from ever having to be accessible. It is a recognition that, one, your practices are already akin to what is contained in a given standard, or two, you need a little bit more time to get up to the standard that has been established for a justifiable reason that will be made public and reviewed three years.

Senator Moodie: So I’m hearing you say that in three years, even if I get an exemption the first go-around, I will be reviewed again.

Minister Qualtrough: Absolutely. The reason is technical.

Mr. Van Raalte: You’d actually have to reapply. It’s not just a review. You have to initiate the fact that —

Minister Qualtrough: It expires.

Mr. Van Raalte: It expires, and you would have to reapply, justify and demonstrate that you still require an exemption, from your perspective. Then there’s still an approval process.

Our Comment: We disagree with the minister’s justification for the bill’s current exemptions powers. An exemption from this legislation’s requirements is not needed to encourage innovation.

If an organization is already meeting or exceeding the requirements of an accessibility standard, they have no need for an exemption. If they are close, but need a bit more time, that is typically and easily dealt with through the flexibility in the enforcement process.

Moreover, the minister spelled out the specific situations when exemptions are to be granted. Yet the bill does not limit the Government to only granting exemptions in those situations. For example, the Government could exempt itself for any reason it wishes, not just for the reasons that the minister gave (i.e. they need a little more time or are already in substantive compliance with the results that the standard seeks to achieve).

Excerpt 11

Senator Omidvar: You’ve described the bill as a first or an incremental step. There are critics who say it is unnecessarily timid. I’m going to read a portion of an email that I got that deals with splintering — with a multitude of agencies being responsible for enforcement, regulation-making and overseeing complaints.

So the concern is that the bill’s implementation and enforcement are therefore less effective, it is more confusing, it’s more complicated, it’s more costly, and there is a variability of decision-making and possibly of standards. I hear this when the advocates say that this will make it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have and to get violations fixed.

So I understand the no-wrong-door approach, but I also understand that too much of a GPS with variability will make it completely confusing. Will you respond to this criticism?

Minister Qualtrough: I will. I, too, have received email — maybe that same email and maybe more than once.

Senator Omidvar: We all did.

Minister Qualtrough: If I had a blank piece of paper, and I could design the system of my liking and choosing, it might not look like this. However, we didn’t start out with a blank piece of paper; we started out with a fully functioning, complicated system of federal government that included regulators that were already doing this work — regulators that, to be honest, we didn’t always hear good things about and regulators whose powers we have beefed up.

But it became very clear very quickly as the design of the system started to take hold that we were in a position of having to either pull out from the CTA and CRTC. There are three at play here: the CTA, the CRTC and then the Canadian Human Rights Commission does everything else. In terms of the number of regulators, we’ve got the CTA doing transportation, the CRTC doing telecommunications and broadcasting; and then the Human Rights Commission doing everything else. Taking it out of the CTA or the CRTC would be costly. In some ways, at the end of the day, it wouldn’t recognize the expertise they had built up and that they absolutely can and will improve upon.

But we heard very concretely — and I’m sure you’ll hear yourselves from the kind of more technically minded regulators that are the CTA and the CRTC — that when you’re designing and responsible for safety — CTA airplane seat design comes to mind. The CTA is responsible to design an airplane seat, and the first consideration is safety, of course, and what has to be built into that seat design.

For an outside regulator to come in and say, “Yes, you have to design a seat, but you have to take into consideration all of these accessibility needs,” it was deemed better for the CTA to be the one to include and incorporate accessibility considerations into the design of that seat.

To be very clear, the non-technical aspects of the business of the transportation sector in Canada will be under the purview of the CHRC. So if there’s a customer service standard, an employment standard, built environment standard — those are all going to be imposed on the VIA Rails, the Air Canadas, et cetera. It’s the more technical sides of those sectors that will be the purview of those specific regulators.

It was a compromise, because I recognize it makes the system more complicated for the complainant and the end user. That’s why we’ve taken the efforts we have even now. There are committees. The heads of the CTA, the CHRC and the CRTC are already meeting to figure out how they’re going to work together to make sure that from the complainant’s point of view it is seamless, but we know it’s more complicated. It was a sectoral approach that we chose as a compromise, recognizing we weren’t starting from scratch and recognizing the complicated technical nature of the business in which these two established regulators are in.

I’m confident that there will be bumps along this road, but we will get to a place where whenever someone files a complaint, it will end up where it needs to be, and the chief accessibility officer and the chief accessibility commissioner will make sure of that.

Our Comment: Contrary to the minister’s suggestion, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC do not have demonstrated expertise in disability accessibility. Their insufficient performance in this area for many years suggests much the opposite.

We have warned that this splintering of the bill’s implementation and enforcement among different federal agencies is very confusing. It is hard to figure out from the bill who does what, as between the Accessibility Commissioner, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC.

The minister’s presentation reinforced this concern. She incorrectly described the division of responsibility between these agencies. She stated:

“To be very clear, the non-technical aspects of the business of the transportation sector in Canada will be under the purview of the CHRC. So if there’s a customer service standard, an employment standard, built environment standard – those are all going to be imposed on the VIA Rails, the Air Canadas, et cetera. It’s the more technical sides of those sectors that will be the purview of those specific regulators.”

The minister here is saying that the Canadian Transportation Agency will be responsible for technical issues regarding transportation, but not things like the built environment. In fact, under Bill C-81, the Canadian Transportation Agency and not the Canadian Human Rights Commission is responsible for setting standards for the built environment in places like airports and train stations. Section 120 of the bill provides in part:

“120 The only regulations made under subsection 117(1) that apply in respect of a regulated entity that is required to comply with any provision of regulations made under subsection 170(1) of the Canada Transportation Act are those that relate to the identification and removal of barriers, and the prevention of new barriers, in the following areas: …

…(b) the built environment, other than a passenger aircraft, passenger train, passenger bus, passenger vessel, aerodrome passenger terminal, railway passenger station, bus passenger station or marine passenger terminal;”

We sympathize with the minister’s confusion. This bill is itself very confusing and difficult to understand, even for those with extensive expertise in this area.

The minister said the Government is splintering the bill because of the costs of not splintering the bill. To our knowledge, this is the first time that the Federal Government has claimed that it would be more costly to have this bill’s accessibility regime all enforced by one federal agency, the new ,Accessibility Commissioner , rather than splintering it among four agencies. It is the first time the Government has claimed it would be more costly to have all regulations made by the Federal Cabinet, rather than splintering this responsibility among three agencies, the Cabinet, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC.

The Government offered no specifics on what these supposed added costs would be. It did not offset these against the greater costs under this bill, as written, to the Government, to people with disabilities and to obligated organizations of having this bill’s implementation and enforcement so splintered. For example, under the bill as now written, it will cost the airlines more to produce two separate accessibility plans and to deal with two different regulatory agencies, the Accessibility Commissioner and the Canadian Transportation Agency, than if they only had to prepare one plan and file it with one federal agency.

Excerpt 12

Senator Poirier: On Bill C-81, it does not include a deadline for achieving full accessibility, compared to the different provincial accessibility legislation, like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This act has clear deadlines for achieving the full accessibility for Ontarians on or before January 1, 2025.

Can you explain to us why you have not put a deadline established in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: Absolutely, senator. As I said, that was a topic of rigorous debate and discussion, and sometimes disagreement, over the course of going through this whole journey with respect to this legislation. Where we landed, as I said, was focusing on getting things started, not imposing a deadline that in any way would disincentivize organizations to get going on this. It was about recognizing that what we consider accessible today will not be good enough 10 years from now and knowing, quite frankly, that we’re a long way off from being accessible or barrier-free.

We concluded that it just wasn’t the best way to get going on this. I don’t know if I could elaborate further. At the end of the day, we figured putting in place the requirement that regulations and standards be put in place within two years by each of the regulators and that a review of the law happen within five years of the first regulation coming into force — taking the steps in parallel now to get this thing off the ground and going was the better course of action.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments under Excerpt 8, above.

Excerpt 13

Senator Dasko : I guess another thing that I’ve heard from some people who think this bill should go farther than it does has to do with the federal government’s lack of intention here to take a stronger role when it comes to direct federal spending on infrastructure projects or spending in many areas where the federal government funds projects and creates projects and so on, the critique being that it doesn’t go far enough in insisting that barriers are not there when these projects are undertaken. So just at the beginning, I suppose, before federal money is given to these projects, not enough is being done in this bill to ensure that those projects are barrier-free. It’s a critique I’ve heard, and I’d like to hear what you might have to say about it.

(Procedural discussion omitted)

Minister Qualtrough: At the end of the day, what I would say is we’ve pushed the language in the law as far as we can go while still respecting federal jurisdiction. James is probably better to answer the technical side as to how far we can go, but this will apply to federal policies and federal programs. It won’t apply to financial transfers like the health transfer because that’s effectively a provincial jurisdiction that we’re helping to fund, but it doesn’t give us authority, as I understand it, to actually impose that condition down that far. Maybe I’m not explaining it right. I apologize. It’s jurisdictional.

To be very clear, though, this will transformatively change the Government of Canada in terms of every department and agency will have to have an accessibility plan. We have already established in my office, for example, a centre for accessible procurement, meaning we will be having policies and processes. We won’t procure things that aren’t accessible.

The Prime Minister has appointed a deputy minister responsible for an accessible public service, whose job it is every day to figure out how we are going to have to be ready and how we will be ready in our government with its employees to adhere to this law.

Can you talk to more about how far we can go down, please? Because I can’t remember the language in the law.

Mr. Van Raalte: I think you’ve covered it, minister. Departments will have to be able to report on their programs, policies and services. They will have to do that reporting in consultation with people with disabilities. They are at the table for that. So that will actually give both the government and the public forward-looking perspective on the plans of those organizations, such as planned spending and program priorities in a forward-looking way that will allow us to have those discussions. You want to be thinking about the accessibility measures included in those investments.

Ms. Qualtrough: Having said that, in terms of what’s in the law, we’ve taken a number of steps in parallel to embed accessibility into our new programs and our new processes. I’ll give you an example. With the National Housing Strategy or our infrastructure program, accessibility is baked into these initiatives.

A fun example I like to give is around our infrastructure. Transit is a priority for our government. Historically, for whatever reason, whether it be oversight or intention, upgrades with respect to making buses more accessible have not been included as eligible expenses for communities to claim and use infrastructure dollars for. We literally added a box on a piece of paper three years ago where we told communities that they could use this money to make their community buses more accessible. In that one year, $810 million was spent on accessible transit. We didn’t advertise it. We didn’t highlight it anywhere. We changed the form, and communities recognized the values of accessible transit and invested in their communities.

I could give you so many examples, as we’ve pursued this law, of the things that we’ve done in terms of government policy, programs and initiatives to make the way we govern a more accessible experience, both for the people who work in government and the people we serve.

Our Comment: As the AODA Alliance presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 shows, we respectfully disagree with the minister’s claims that the Federal Government cannot do more here. The minister’s statements make it sound like the Federal Government is powerless to attach accessibility strings when it gives federal public money to a local or provincial government to help build a hospital, subway station, or university building.

This is incorrect. The Federal Government has a significant “spending power” which lets it attach federal conditions to federal money that it gives out. If a provincial government or other local organization doesn’t want to comply with those strings, it is free to simply refuse to accept the federal money.

For over three decades, the Canada Health Act, a federal law, has attached federal strings to federal money that is given to provinces to help finance their health care systems. One of those legal requirements is the accessibility of health care services (not in the disability sense of accessibility) If the minister is correct – that the Federal Government has no power to attach strings to federal money that is spent in provincial areas of responsibility – then she is admitting that the Canada Health Act is unconstitutional. That would be a surprising thing for a federal cabinet minister to claim.

We believe that the Federal Government could include in Bill C-81 a requirement that no federal cabinet minister or department may agree to give federal public money to any organization, federal or provincial, to contribute to the building or renovating of infrastructure, unless the recipient agrees to meet federal accessibility requirements. If the minister were correct, then the Federal Government is simply powerless here. It can give money to help fund the construction of a local subway station, but is powerless to say that the subway station must have elevators, and not just stairs, to reach the subway. We disagree.

This too is not a hypothetical issue. The AODA Alliance has produced a widely-viewed online video that shows serious accessibility problems at new Toronto subway stations, recently opened, that were built in part with federal money.

The minister gave examples of commendable new policies that the Federal Government has adopted to promote the procurement by the Government of accessible goods, services and facilities. We applaud these. However, they are merely policies, not legal requirements. A subsequent minister or Government could abolish or disregard them with the stroke of a pen, without requiring any public debate. That is why we want such requirements embedded in the bill.

Excerpt 14

Senator Kutcher: Thank you, minister, for your very clear and well considered answers to these questions. Our task is to try to assist in making the bill the best it can be. You mentioned one area that I think you suggested we could dive a little bit deeper on and that was the sign language domain. So my question is: Are there any other areas that you or your team —

Minister Qualtrough: Boy, am I allowed to answer this question?

Senator Kutcher: — would like to highlight as something we could have a more intensive focus on as we study the bill?

Minister Qualtrough: I think some sort of recognition, as you say, of sign languages as being the first language of Canadians who are Deaf is certainly what we have all heard and you will hear.

Senator Munson asked a question about the duty to accommodate, and perhaps to avoid confusion that could be explicit. I know it is at law and I would suggest case law has already clarified that point but I think it might be worth . . . nobody usually asks me that question.

Yes, I mean, if there are things that you think can be improved, certainly please explore that. My concern is getting it passed. I think it’s a really good piece of law and I wouldn’t want anything to get in the way of that. Sorry to be so direct. The community has done such good work and I feel a real heightened obligation to deliver this for them. This is once in a generation and people have fought for a long time before me to have this conversation nationally. This is a genie we are not putting back in the bottle. It’s pretty exciting. Sorry I don’t have further feedback for you but those two would be at the top of my mind.

Our Comment: The minister here again indicates that she is open to amendments to the bill. That is helpful.

As areas that the Senators might focus on as part of their study of the bill, the minister referred to possible recognition that Sign Language is the first language of people who are deaf, and something explicit about the duty to accommodate. She said that those two items are at the top of her mind. She did not specifically commit to passage of amendments to that end. She commendably invited the Senate to explore things in the bill that “can be improved.”

Excerpt 15

Minister Qualtrough: May I add something on the duty to accommodate piece because it’s really important and kind of something I’m obsessed with. We need to make it very clear to Canadians that this is a really important legally enshrined tenet of human rights law in this country and nothing we are doing here takes away any organization’s obligation to accommodate individuals. In some cases, a small business who has complied with the standard might say, “We have complied,” and that might meet their duty to accommodate but the Government of Canada it might not. We need to be very clear and I need it on the record from me so I can sleep tonight that this in no way, in any way negates any organization’s obligation to accommodate individuals on the grounds of disability.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments under Excerpts 1 and 6 above.

Excerpt 16

Senator Eaton: Minister, is there another country who does this better than we are going to do it? Is there another country that is an example to us?

Minister Qualtrough: Our neighbour to the south has the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has an anti-discrimination component which would be covered off in our country by the human rights legislation and an accessibility standards component. So we have spent a lot of time looking at their model. It’s obviously a different kind of structured country, federal, state, but what I’m hoping, because I’m at heart a competitive athlete, is that this becomes the international standard that has built upon what other countries have been doing. The States has been doing it for 30 years, but I would like to believe ours will be better.

Our Comment: We commend the minister for wanting Canada’s new accessibility legislation to be better than the American legislation, and better than other laws around the world. However, as now written, Bill C-81 regrettably falls well short of that goal. It is also in some key ways weaker than Ontario’s AODA, which itself has run into significant implementation and enforcement problems over the past 14 years.

Excerpt 17

Senator Omidvar: Very quickly, you have talked about the fact that there is a timeline, that within two years agencies have to enact one regulation. However, what is the quality of that regulation? Is there a concern that it could be an inconsequential one, a minor procedural matter without actually embracing the spirit of what you are trying to propose?

Minister Qualtrough: I don’t think the law provides the safeguard that you are asking about. What I do think, though, is that CASDO is that safeguard. So having CASDO created with a board of directors with a majority of individuals with lived experience, and they get to decide which regulations take priority and what comes first and what comes second and who does what and what the priorities are. That group of individuals will be tasked with making sure there are substantive regulations in place as quickly as possible based on their agreed upon priorities.

Our Comment: We respectfully disagree with parts of the minister’s description of this legislation. The minister correctly stated that the bill does not ensure that the regulation that must be enacted within two years is something more than an inconsequential procedural regulation.

However, she is incorrect in stating that the new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization is a safeguard to ensure that substantive regulations are enacted as soon as possible. CASDO has no such power under this bill. CASDO has no authority to enact any regulations whatsoever. It can only give advice. It can recommend what should be included in accessibility standard regulations. The Federal Government, the CRTC and the Canadian Transportation Agency need never listen to CASDO’s advice, and need never give a reason for refusing to act on CASDO’s advice.

As for the regulation that must be enacted within two years, that regulation is NOT an accessibility standard regulation. As the Senator’s question mentions, it is a procedural regulation that the Government must enact in the first two years. CASDO has no control over those procedural regulations. Contrary to the minister’s suggestion, CASDO is therefore not an effective safeguard to ensure that those regulations are meaningful.



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Read or Watch What the AODA Alliance Said to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 About the Need to Strengthen the Weak 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

April 15, 2019

SUMMARY

Here’s a chance to read or watch exactly what AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky said in our April 11, 2019 evidence presented to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on the need to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. See the text below (about 14 pages).

In this text we do not include what two other organizations presented at the same time. We will later post on our website the transcript for the entire set of hearings that the Senate held on Bill C-81. That will include the presentations of all the organizations that presented on Bill C-81, including the others that presented at the same time as the AODA Alliance.

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

We encourage you to 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. 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.

It’s not too late for you to help our campaign. Send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. We are so appreciative of the individuals and organizations that have already done so. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

The Senate Standing Committee will meet on May 2, 2019 to decide what amendments it will make to Bill C-81. The minister leading this bill, Carla Qualtrough, told the Standing Committee on April 3, 2019 that she is open to amendments and wants Bill C-81 to be the best bill it can be. Senator Jim Munson, who is sponsoring this bill in the Senate, told the Standing Committee on April 10, 2019 in clear and categorical terms that there will be amendments. We are campaigning to ensure that these amendments are strong and effective.

During our presentation to the Senate Standing Committee, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky encouraged the Committee to watch the AODA Alliance’s online video about serious accessibility problems in new Toronto area subway stations. It has already been seen thousands of times and has secured good media coverage. Check it out by visiting https://youtu.be/za1UptZq82o

To help our campaign, on April 5, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent a letter to the leaders of all the federal political parties. We asked them to support amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate makes to strengthen it. We want these passed in the House of Commons before the federal election this fall. We also asked the party leaders to pledge that if Bill C-81 is not properly strengthened, or is not passed before the election, that they’ll bring it back before Parliament after the federal election to be strengthened and passed into law.

Stay tuned. We will keep you posted on new developments. We always welcome your feedback on this presentation and on anything else we are up to! Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Text of What AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Presented to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 Regarding Bill C-81

(Note: The evidence of other presenters and their responses to other Senators has been omitted here, but will be available in the full transcript for these hearings which we will post on our website when it becomes available. Also, the full transcript that we will later post will translate any French passages, set out below, into English.)

THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL AFFAIRS, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EVIDENCE
OTTAWA, Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met this day at 10:30 a.m. to study Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

Senator Chantal Petitclerc (Chair) in the chair. We will continue with our second panel.

David Lepofsky, Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance: Good morning, senators. Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions, but palpably weak on implementation. Its called An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, but it does not require a single barrier anywhere in Canada, ever, to be removed. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

Bill C-81, at its core and its heart, is driven by the commendable notion that the federal government will enact enforceable regulations called accessibility standards that will tell federally regulated organizations what they have got to do. But it doesnt require any federal accessibility standards to ever be enacted as enforceable regulations. People with disabilities need and deserve better.

Let me be clear: The regulations that the bill requires to be enacted within two years are on procedural things, not substantive accessibility standards. The federal government could meet that deadline merely by prescribing the forms that people with disabilities shall use if they want to give feedback to Air Canada or Bell Canada. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

This legislation splinters its enforcement and the setting of enforceable regulations among multiple federal agencies. From the ministers defence of her practice, she conceded that if she was starting from scratch, that isnt necessarily how she would do it. But her explanation of why she did it gives triumphant ascendancy to federal bureaucracy over disability equality.

Now the question is: What do we do about it? The question is not: Are you going to pass this bill, senators? Youre going to pass this bill, so lets take that off the table. We all know it. We all understand it. Thats the starting point.

The question before this committee is: Are you going to amend it first? What we say is that you must. The reality is this bill needs a lot of amendments not to make it perfect thats a red herring but to get this bill from the status of weak to one that is closer to what people with disabilities need and deserve.

In the house, there were a couple hundred pages of amendments. Hard work over the past weekend has led us to distill it down to a series of amendments before you that we proposed and you have received e-mails from some witnesses who support them which fill a grand total of 3.5 pages and cover a few core themes. I am only going to address a couple of them, but let me be clear, there is time to do this. Youre going to vote in committee on May 2. I understand you will do third reading by May 16. We are working and approaching the federal parties to urge that, once amendments are passed if they are that the house consider them quickly, so the issue of swift passage of this bill, whether amended or not, is now, procedurally, not a bar to your being able to do what we need you to do.

So what should you do?

Well, let me just focus on a couple, but I invite questions on all of what we proposed. Lets just turn to the headlines. Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced a multi-billion-dollar plan for new subways in Toronto, but only if other levels of government, including the federal government, add billions to the allocation the province is committing to. Thats not unusual. But we need the federal government to be required, before it spends our money on a project like that, to say a ground rule of getting our federal money is you have to meet certain federal accessibility requirements.

Now, the minister came before you a week ago and said, We cant do that. We dont have constitutional authority to do that. Respectfully, the minister is wrong. Its called the federal spending power. Have you heard of the Canada Health Act? The Canada Health Act says that if provinces get federal money for provincial health programs, they must meet federal accessibility requirements. Not disability accessibility, but their financial accessibility.

If what the minister told you is right, then the Canada Health Act has been unconstitutional for over three decades since it was enacted. I would be staggered to believe that is the position of the current federal government. If they can do it there, they can at least attach strings when they give money, if they agree to, to local projects and not just federal buildings.

You might look at me and say, Oh, come on, in 2019 we wouldnt use public money to build inaccessible public transit. Senators, go to YouTube, search on AODA Alliance and public transit. You will see a video we released during last springs provincial election that has thousands of views and media coverage where we document serious accessibility problems in brand new subway stations in Toronto that just opened within the past year-and-a-half.

This isnt about perfect, folks. This is about basic equality, so we ask for an amendment that would at least require federal ministers or their ministries, if they are agreeing to give our federal money to a province, a municipality, a college or university for a project like that, to put, as a term of the agreement, an enforceable term, just like the Canada Health Act, that accessibility requirements are required. Why should the federal government ever allow federal money to be used to create new barriers or perpetuate existing ones?

Let me give you one other core amendment. My colleague from the CNIB said the minister last week had agreed to amend the bill to ensure that it does not curtail in any way the human rights code and the duty to accommodate. I hope the minister does that, but I dont hear her as having said that. I hear her as having said that she, as a former human rights lawyer, has ensured that this bill doesnt interfere with the duty to accommodate. But senators, it threatens to.

Section 172 of the bill perpetuates a provision in the Canada transportation legislation that would let the CTA enact a regulation, and once it does so, to set standards for accessible transit, no matter how low that standard may be and no matter how deficient from a human rights standard it may be. As a traveller with a disability or others in my coalition or anyone in Canada, we are barred from asking any more under the legislations guarantee against undue barriers.

With that provision in the act, our position is: Please dont ever enact any standards under the CTA because they threaten to take away our rights. A simple amendment would repeal that provision from the act.

Let me conclude by inviting questions on the other areas that weve raised. Im telling you that we are not just about saying whats wrong. We are about proposing constructive suggestions for whats right, and the amendments weve placed before you are designed for a Senate that has a limited time frame to act, a commitment to respect policy decisions made in the House of Commons and an eagerness to ensure that these amendments can be considered by the house quickly and easily, with a realistic chance of them being taken seriously. They are designed to be tailored both to our needs and to what the minister said to you last week. So we ask you to take them all seriously. They are all substantive, and they all bear on the needs of all people with disabilities.

I conclude by saying this: Im speaking for my coalition, but as an individual, I first came before Parliament 39 years ago as a much younger individual my wife said I had hair back then when she saw the video to appear before the standing committee considering the Charter of Rights. At that time, the Charter proposed to guarantee equality but not to people with disabilities. I and a number of other folks argued and succeeded in getting the Charter amended to include that right.

I leave you with two thoughts. First, the amendments we seek are aimed at making that right become a reality, not just as a matter of good intention but as effective implementation.

The Chair: Thank you so much, Mr. Lepofsky. We have a list of senators who are eager to ask questions.

Senator Seidman: Thank you all very much for your presentations.

Mr. Lepofsky, I will take you up on your challenge. Im searching for commonalities. I appreciate the premise you made that we are looking for clear, crisp, focused and meaningful amendments that have a hope of being passed on the other side because thats exactly whats going to have to happen in this process.

I would like to ask you specifically, you submitted three areas that need strengthening with 11 amendments. I would like to ask you very specifically about your amendment about timelines. It is true that HUMA heard testimony around timelines, but they decided not to amend the bill to include a deadline. You have proposed one. In fact, I think you proposed January 1, 2040.

I would like to hear from you why you are pushing that we have a timeline and why it would be that particular one.

Mr. Lepofsky: There are two timelines that we set. One is that the government should be required not just permitted but required to enact accessibility standards regulations within five years and also the timeline for ultimate accessibility in Canada by 2040. Yes, these were pitched to HUMA. The opposition parties, left and right, united in support of that agenda. The government did not agree.

Our hope is that, on your sober second thought, you find wisdom drawing on the experiences that bring you to this Senate, that a return of this issue to the House in June, months before an election, may lead all members of the house to see the wisdom in adopting them.

To be clear, I have an appointment to meet the minister this afternoon to bring that message. We would like to work with the Senate and the house to see if we can broker a package that covers everything.

With respect to the 2040 deadline, I had the privilege of leading the coalition that fought for a decade to win the enactment of Ontarios accessibility law, and I now lead the coalition that has fought for the past 14 years to get it effectively implemented. The minister doubted whether a deadline in the legislation would help. Our front-line grassroots experience of 14 years demonstrates unequivocally that it does. The minister feared that that might lead to a disincentive. People think, Oh, you have to wait until 2039 to start. Not only doesnt it, but weve proposed wording that you can include that will utterly accommodate the ministers worry by making that clear.

What weve learned is if you say, It will become accessible sometime in the next millennium, whatever, action wont happen. If, on the other hand, the 2040 deadline is set, senator, then Air Canada knows that deadline overarches their plans and their accessibility requirements. CASDO knows that the standards they recommend have to meet that requirement, and cabinet and all other regulation-making bodies will know that that is the measure. Without that tool, our efforts in Ontario which have been a hard slog, believe me would be considerably harder.

Senator Seidman: Thank you.

Senator Munson: Thank you for being here. I think we have to acknowledge the work of former Senator David Smith, when, David, you talked about the Charter. He was the person who led the charge to make sure that dealing with disabilities was in the Charter. It had been left out, and I want to acknowledge that.

I have two quick questions, one for Mr. Belanger and one for Mr. Lepofsky.

Mr. Belanger, you support the bill, but it seems Indigenous people have been left off the table, and I cant understand why. I know there have been discussions about nation to nation, but there are more than 600. So you support it, but you have been left out. If you could address that.

Mr. Lepofsky, you have not been much of a fan of the CRTC, CTA and others. You have an amendment here, so could you explain that amendment to us and how that would work? There is supposed to be no wrong door, but there seem to be a lot of doors, so if you could talk about your amendment, to get that on the record.

Mr. Belanger: (not included here)

Senator Munson: Mr. Lepofsky?

Mr. Lepofsky: Thank you. Sometimes it helps when you have someone who is blind and what you are facing is a bit of a smoke screen. The no wrong door stuff that youve been hearing about, respectfully, I think has been raised by those presenting it as a smokescreen, or as least it is serving that way.

What do I mean? Our strong preference from day one would be one-stop shopping one agency, one place to go, one body making the regulations. It is quicker, more efficient, fairer and certainly easier for us.

The current regime only serves the interests of organizations that want to use the splintering to make it harder for us. But we know that in the amendments that you are going to pass in the next two weeks that a total rewrite of the major chunks of the bill is not feasible.

So what do we do? What could fix it? No wrong door talks about where you get in. It is not the most important thing. What happens when you get there? Right now, we have four agencies with four different procedures, with four different policies and practices, and there will be four different sets of forms and four different potential sets of deadlines. It is a guarantee of chaos for us, but it will be great for the airlines because they know them, or the broadcasters because theyve been navigating them and they are lawyered up to be able to do that.

So whats our solution? A simple amendment that says that the major bodies are required to develop, within a timeline that we prescribe, a series of processes to harmonize and have, essentially, the same procedure, or as close as possible, behind the door when you get there.

We heard yesterday from the leads of those agencies that they have started working together on their processes, but there are no commitments whatsoever to ensure that it is the same process. The bill now, in sections 94 to 110, prescribes a series of expedited processes at the accessibility commissioner. We say, great, if they work expeditiously, but neither the CTA nor the CRTC have been experienced by people with disabilities as expeditious much the reverse.

My last point is you heard yesterday from these agencies that are generally serious in saying all theyve done. Thats understandable from them. But can I just take you to the front lines for a minute? I will just tell you my own personal experience. I could aggregate it across all the feedback we get.

CTAs track record historically is pretty lousy. They finally got religion three years ago and are starting to work on regulations. Theyve had the power to do this for over 30 years. Where have they been? As a blind person who travels internationally, I can tell you I dread entering Canadian airspace, not because we never get service, but it is way more unreliable here than I have seen otherwise.

The CRTC. In the U.S., it has been federal law since, I believe, 2016 that cable providers must provide an accessible PVR. In Canada, where is the CRTC? It is not required here. It should be, but it is not.

So please take the track records and understand that our jadedness is well justified. But our solution is what you can do in a short period is at least require the other agencies, if we are stuck with them, to come up with not just statements to you yesterday about how they want to be expeditious, but actually require them to come up with processes that will be expeditious. Thats what our amendment proposes.

(Passage omitted)

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you for that.

Mr. Lepofsky, I will come back to Senator Seidmans question, and that is the whole concept of the balance of getting this through I cant help but bring this up just one more time in an efficient and expedient and respectful way, and balancing what are significant concerns and amendments that, in many cases, are kind of related. Now that we have this, how do we make sure the stuff gets done?

Mr. Lepofsky: Two things. First, we are used to battling uphill. Doing disability rights advocacy is like swimming up Niagara Falls, but that doesnt deter us. We keep doing it. When the people are more jittery and We better just take what we can get and all that stuff, I get that. But weve never taken that view. Weve stared down the risks.

If we took that view, we would not have gotten a disability amendment in 1982. We probably would have settled for a weak accessibility law passed in Ontario in 2001 rather than standing our ground and getting a stronger one in 2005. And in this case, we have all three parties that voted for this law in the house, though the opposition said it is too weak. We wrote to all the party leaders and said : We want to take this risk off the table. Will you promise, if this bill doesnt come through, you will bring it back in the fall?

So we are putting even more heat on them. We are saying: We want to come back with amendments from the Senate, if the Senate agrees, and decide on this bill in time to get it properly considered. Do whatever you have to do, pass it with the amendments or not. That could be dealt with before the house rises. And theyve got the shared pressure of all the groups youve heard from that are jointly saying: Please get this thing through.

So the pressure will be on them. But we also have the good fortune that we have opposition parties we are non-partisan, and we are supporting amendments in the house. We are hoping and I will be seeing the minister this afternoon that they will see the wisdom of strengthening this.

The final thing I will say, senator, is it is a legitimate concern, but I think it is a concern that has been answered. Minister Qualtrough answered your concern last week. Senator Munson asked her: Are you open to amendments? She could have said: Look, it is too tight. We are too busy. We are not going to be able to get it through; please just approve it.

Thats not what she said. She knew as much as anyone else in this room about the legislative timelines in the house. She probably knows more because she is part of the government. She said: No they are open to amendments, and we want this to be the best bill it possibly can be.

The fact of the matter is, with our short three pages of amendments covering a few core issues that cut across what people said at HUMA and the issues they raised here, that these will help move in the direction that she said she is open to. So I suggest you take her up and hold her to what she said.

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Ma question sadresse à Monsieur Lepofsky.)

(après anglais M. Belanger: … but thats what I believe.)

La sénatrice Mégie: Ma question sadresse à Monsieur Lepofsky. Jai cru comprendre que vous avez collaboré à lélaboration de la Loi sur laccessibilité pour les personnes handicapées de lOntario. Ai-je bien compris?

(anglais suit M. Lepofsky: Yes. Heres the quick CV…)

(Following French – Senator Mégie – . . .ai-je bien compris?)

Mr. Lepofsky: Yes, here’s the quick CV in 1980 .

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Je voulais juste ajouter ma. . .)

(après anglais M. Lepofsky: … in 1980 )

La sénatrice Mégie: Je voulais juste ajouter ma réelle question.

Avaient-ils un échéancier? Sils en avaient un, est-ce que vous observez un mouvement pour la mise en uvre de cet échéancier?

(anglais suit M. Lepofsky: There was a movement to get the legislation…)

(Following French – Senator Mégie – . . .de cet échéancier?)

Mr. Lepofsky: There was a movement to get the legislation in place and I had the privilege of leading that movement. It was passed unanimously in 2005. The idea of the deadline of 2025 came from the government, not from us. The minister who brought it in came to the house committee here and said, You should do it, too, and we agreed with her. It was a great idea and we jumped on it and said it was great. It may not be as quick as wed like, but it got action going. Are they on schedule now? No.

Senator, your colleagues were asking questions about the five-year review. Weve had three of these reviews in Ontario. Their core job is to say, Are we on schedule? And all three reviews demonstrated the most recent one in the most blistering terms no, were not and we need strong action.

Now, if we didnt have that deadline, their review could be informative but it certainly wouldnt have the message that it does that we are far behind schedule. This came up in question period as recently as yesterday in the Ontario legislature. It is a critical tool.

Let me give you one more example because you are asking, Will this help? The Toronto Transit Commission runs a subway and has a whole bunch of subway stations. Approximately half of them have no elevator. But to its credit, the TTC has a plan to make them all accessible by 2025 because theyve read the Ontario legislation.

Actually, the Ontario government has not passed a regulation addressing subway stations, but the mere presence of that date in the legislation itself has lead this major subway to adopt that plan.

Let me tell you one more thing. They tried to back down from that plan a few years ago and push it back, and we went to the media and said: Not fair; the act says 2025. And that media pressure led the TTC to back down and stick to 2025.

If the ministers approach to this legislation had prevailed in Ontario, we would be further behind in getting those subway stations accessible.

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Merci.)

(après anglais M. Lepofsky: … those subway stations accessible.)

La sénatrice Mégie: Merci.

Senator Dasko: I will focus specifically on your meeting with the minister this afternoon. In the interests of being efficient and especially effective, in your meeting with the minister could you focus her mind on what she would be willing to do, and could you get back to us with any insights or promises, pledges, intelligence, anything you can? That will help us move forward, given the time frame thats left, given the suggestions you have for us, which in my mind seem serious and extensive. But maybe it is all easy, but Im a new senator.

If you could learn from the minister what she would be willing to do and Im not saying that will determine what we do that will help us very much in what we do. Then we will understand what might be doable and what all of us, in the end, might hope to expect and get from the process. Can I ask you that question?

Mr. Lepofsky: As a deputant who is notorious for long, wordy answers, my answer is yes.

Senator Dasko: We look forward to getting back to you. And I know Senator Omidvar has a question.

Senator Omidvar: Thank you for being here. And Mr. Lepofsky, for the correspondence that you have been in with not just me but everyone. And I want to probe your assessment the capacity, of the CRTC and the CTA on disability accessibility. They were here yesterday. I quoted to them a section of your letter, a rather blistering assessment of their lack of progress. They, in turn, responded by talking about the great pride they have in the progress they have made. And I will quote from a brief submitted to this committee from the CRTC. They talk about the history of their progress: In the mid 1980s, they mandated TTY relay services. In 2009, it was expanded to include the provision of IP relay services, and five years later, the provision of video relay services. A 911 service is currently mandated. In 2009, the CRTC began to require broadcasters to provide described video services four hours per week. Would you still use the word lousy to describe their progress?

Mr. Lepofsky: Only in public. In private, they may be slightly more colourful.

Senator Omidvar: Tell us what you can.

Mr. Lepofsky: I say this not just to be glib, but we are not saying that they did nothing. Full disclosure: Scott Streiner, the head of the CTA, is a good guy with a strong record in human rights. If you could pass an amendment to make him immortal, we would vote for it, okay?

Senator Omidvar: Not in our power.

Mr. Lepofsky: I dont know if you have the authority. That may be provincial.

I say two things in terms of these agencies. The first is that they do not have core expertise. They are not there; they are experts in broadcasting and in transit, not in accessibility. Thats what the accessibility commissioner will be.

Look at the track record of the CTA three decades, their own draft regulation out for comment now acknowledges that they have not done enough. Why couldnt they have done some of this years ago? We didnt just invent people with disabilities using airplanes or trains. This is not new. It is not rocket science.

The final thing I would say is what the amendment focuses on. They have labyrinthian procedures that are designed for major regulatory decision-making. I get that. But it is not suited to us. Thats why we give credit to the government in its design of sections 94 to 110 to come up with something even more streamlined than the sometimes more labyrinthian process of the Human Rights Commission.

But we need those other agencies to talk about not just no wrong door, but equally fast, comparable procedures, once you get behind that door. And I didnt hear them say they were going to do that, or didnt hear them saying they were going to commit to doing that. Thats why we need this amendment.

Senator Omidvar: Fine. Thank you.



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Read or Watch What the AODA Alliance Said to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 About the Need to Strengthen the Weak 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

 

Read or Watch What the AODA Alliance Said to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 About the Need to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

 

April 15, 2019

 

          SUMMARY

 

Here’s a chance to read or watch exactly what AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky said in our April 11, 2019 evidence presented to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on the need to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. See the text below (about 14 pages).

 

In this text we do not include what two other organizations presented at the same time. We will later post on our website the transcript for the entire set of hearings that the Senate held on Bill C-81. That will include the presentations of all the organizations that presented on Bill C-81, including the others that presented at the same time as the AODA Alliance.

 

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

We encourage you to 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. 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.

 

It’s not too late for you to help our campaign. Send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. We are so appreciative of the individuals and organizations that have already done so. Email the Senate at:

[email protected]

 

The Senate Standing Committee will meet on May 2, 2019 to decide what amendments it will make to Bill C-81. The minister leading this bill, Carla Qualtrough, told the Standing Committee on April 3, 2019 that she is open to amendments and wants Bill C-81 to be the best bill it can be. Senator Jim Munson, who is sponsoring this bill in the Senate, told the Standing Committee on April 10, 2019 in clear and categorical terms that there will be amendments. We are campaigning to ensure that these amendments are strong and effective.

 

During our presentation to the Senate Standing Committee, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky encouraged the Committee to watch the AODA Alliance’s online video about serious accessibility problems in new Toronto area subway stations. It has already been seen thousands of times and has secured good media coverage. Check it out by visiting https://youtu.be/za1UptZq82o

 

To help our campaign, on April 5, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent a letter to the leaders of all the federal political parties. We asked them to support amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate makes to strengthen it. We want these passed in the House of Commons before the federal election this fall. We also asked the party leaders to pledge that if Bill C-81 is not properly strengthened, or is not passed before the election, that they’ll bring it back before Parliament after the federal election to be strengthened and passed into law.

 

Stay tuned. We will keep you posted on new developments. We always welcome your feedback on this presentation and on anything else we are up to! Email us at [email protected]

 

          MORE DETAILS

 

Text of What AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Presented to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 Regarding Bill C-81

 

(Note: The evidence of other presenters and their responses to other Senators has been omitted here, but will be available in the full transcript for these hearings which we will post on our website when it becomes available. Also, the full transcript that we will later post will translate any French passages, set out below, into English.)

 

THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL AFFAIRS, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

EVIDENCE

OTTAWA, Thursday, April 11, 2019

 

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met this day at 10:30 a.m. to study Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

 

Senator Chantal Petitclerc (Chair) in the chair. We will continue with our second panel.

 

David Lepofsky, Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance:  Good morning, senators. Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions, but palpably weak on implementation. It’s called An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, but it does not require a single barrier anywhere in Canada, ever, to be removed. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

Bill C-81, at its core and its heart, is driven by the commendable notion that the federal government will enact enforceable regulations called accessibility standards that will tell federally regulated organizations what they have got to do. But it doesn’t require any federal accessibility standards to ever be enacted as enforceable regulations. People with disabilities need and deserve better.

Let me be clear: The regulations that the bill requires to be enacted within two years are on procedural things, not substantive accessibility standards. The federal government could meet that deadline merely by prescribing the forms that people with disabilities shall use if they want to give feedback to Air Canada or Bell Canada. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

This legislation splinters its enforcement and the setting of enforceable regulations among multiple federal agencies. From the minister’s defence of her practice, she conceded that if she was starting from scratch, that isn’t necessarily how she would do it. But her explanation of why she did it gives triumphant ascendancy to federal bureaucracy over disability equality.

Now the question is: What do we do about it? The question is not: Are you going to pass this bill, senators? You’re going to pass this bill, so let’s take that off the table. We all know it. We all understand it. That’s the starting point.

The question before this committee is: Are you going to amend it first? What we say is that you must. The reality is this bill needs a lot of amendments not to make it perfect — that’s a red herring — but to get this bill from the status of weak to one that is closer to what people with disabilities need and deserve.

In the house, there were a couple hundred pages of amendments. Hard work over the past weekend has led us to distill it down to a series of amendments before you that we proposed — and you have received e-mails from some witnesses who support them — which fill a grand total of 3.5 pages and cover a few core themes. I am only going to address a couple of them, but let me be clear, there is time to do this. You’re going to vote in committee on May 2. I understand you will do third reading by May 16. We are working and approaching the federal parties to urge that, once amendments are passed — if they are — that the house consider them quickly, so the issue of swift passage of this bill, whether amended or not, is now, procedurally, not a bar to your being able to do what we need you to do.

So what should you do?

Well, let me just focus on a couple, but I invite questions on all of what we proposed. Let’s just turn to the headlines. Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced a multi-billion-dollar plan for new subways in Toronto, but only if other levels of government, including the federal government, add billions to the allocation the province is committing to. That’s not unusual. But we need the federal government to be required, before it spends our money on a project like that, to say a ground rule of getting our federal money is you have to meet certain federal accessibility requirements.

Now, the minister came before you a week ago and said, “We can’t do that. We don’t have constitutional authority to do that.” Respectfully, the minister is wrong. It’s called the federal spending power. Have you heard of the Canada Health Act? The Canada Health Act says that if provinces get federal money for provincial health programs, they must meet federal accessibility requirements. Not disability accessibility, but their financial accessibility.

If what the minister told you is right, then the Canada Health Act has been unconstitutional for over three decades since it was enacted. I would be staggered to believe that is the position of the current federal government. If they can do it there, they can at least attach strings when they give money, if they agree to, to local projects and not just federal buildings.

You might look at me and say, “Oh, come on, in 2019 we wouldn’t use public money to build inaccessible public transit.” Senators, go to YouTube, search on AODA Alliance and public transit. You will see a video we released during last spring’s provincial election that has thousands of views and media coverage where we document serious accessibility problems in brand new subway stations in Toronto that just opened within the past year-and-a-half.

This isn’t about perfect, folks. This is about basic equality, so we ask for an amendment that would at least require federal ministers or their ministries, if they are agreeing to give our federal money to a province, a municipality, a college or university for a project like that, to put, as a term of the agreement, an enforceable term, just like the Canada Health Act, that accessibility requirements are required. Why should the federal government ever allow federal money to be used to create new barriers or perpetuate existing ones?

Let me give you one other core amendment. My colleague from the CNIB said the minister last week had agreed to amend the bill to ensure that it does not curtail in any way the human rights code and the duty to accommodate. I hope the minister does that, but I don’t hear her as having said that. I hear her as having said that she, as a former human rights lawyer, has ensured that this bill doesn’t interfere with the duty to accommodate. But senators, it threatens to.

Section 172 of the bill perpetuates a provision in the Canada transportation legislation that would let the CTA enact a regulation, and once it does so, to set standards for accessible transit, no matter how low that standard may be and no matter how deficient from a human rights standard it may be. As a traveller with a disability or others in my coalition or anyone in Canada, we are barred from asking any more under the legislation’s guarantee against undue barriers.

With that provision in the act, our position is: Please don’t ever enact any standards under the CTA because they threaten to take away our rights. A simple amendment would repeal that provision from the act.

Let me conclude by inviting questions on the other areas that we’ve raised. I’m telling you that we are not just about saying what’s wrong. We are about proposing constructive suggestions for what’s right, and the amendments we’ve placed before you are designed for a Senate that has a limited time frame to act, a commitment to respect policy decisions made in the House of Commons and an eagerness to ensure that these amendments can be considered by the house quickly and easily, with a realistic chance of them being taken seriously. They are designed to be tailored both to our needs and to what the minister said to you last week. So we ask you to take them all seriously. They are all substantive, and they all bear on the needs of all people with disabilities.

I conclude by saying this: I’m speaking for my coalition, but as an individual, I first came before Parliament 39 years ago as a much younger individual — my wife said I had hair back then when she saw the video — to appear before the standing committee considering the Charter of Rights. At that time, the Charter proposed to guarantee equality but not to people with disabilities. I and a number of other folks argued and succeeded in getting the Charter amended to include that right.

I leave you with two thoughts. First, the amendments we seek are aimed at making that right become a reality, not just as a matter of good intention but as effective implementation.

The Chair: Thank you so much, Mr. Lepofsky. We have a list of senators who are eager to ask questions.

Senator Seidman: Thank you all very much for your presentations.

Mr. Lepofsky, I will take you up on your challenge. I’m searching for commonalities. I appreciate the premise you made that we are looking for clear, crisp, focused and meaningful amendments that have a hope of being passed on the other side because that’s exactly what’s going to have to happen in this process.

I would like to ask you specifically, you submitted three areas that need strengthening with 11 amendments. I would like to ask you very specifically about your amendment about timelines. It is true that HUMA heard testimony around timelines, but they decided not to amend the bill to include a deadline. You have proposed one. In fact, I think you proposed January 1, 2040.

I would like to hear from you why you are pushing that we have a timeline and why it would be that particular one.

Mr. Lepofsky: There are two timelines that we set. One is that the government should be required — not just permitted but required — to enact accessibility standards regulations within five years and also the timeline for ultimate accessibility in Canada by 2040. Yes, these were pitched to HUMA. The opposition parties, left and right, united in support of that agenda. The government did not agree.

Our hope is that, on your sober second thought, you find wisdom drawing on the experiences that bring you to this Senate, that a return of this issue to the House in June, months before an election, may lead all members of the house to see the wisdom in adopting them.

To be clear, I have an appointment to meet the minister this afternoon to bring that message. We would like to work with the Senate and the house to see if we can broker a package that covers everything.

With respect to the 2040 deadline, I had the privilege of leading the coalition that fought for a decade to win the enactment of Ontario’s accessibility law, and I now lead the coalition that has fought for the past 14 years to get it effectively implemented. The minister doubted whether a deadline in the legislation would help. Our front-line grassroots experience of 14 years demonstrates unequivocally that it does. The minister feared that that might lead to a disincentive. People think, “Oh, you have to wait until 2039 to start.” Not only doesn’t it, but we’ve proposed wording that you can include that will utterly accommodate the minister’s worry by making that clear.

What we’ve learned is if you say, “It will become accessible sometime in the next millennium, whatever,” action won’t happen. If, on the other hand, the 2040 deadline is set, senator, then Air Canada knows that deadline overarches their plans and their accessibility requirements. CASDO knows that the standards they recommend have to meet that requirement, and cabinet and all other regulation-making bodies will know that that is the measure. Without that tool, our efforts in Ontario — which have been a hard slog, believe me — would be considerably harder.

Senator Seidman: Thank you.

Senator Munson: Thank you for being here. I think we have to acknowledge the work of former Senator David Smith, when, David, you talked about the Charter. He was the person who led the charge to make sure that dealing with disabilities was in the Charter. It had been left out, and I want to acknowledge that.

I have two quick questions, one for Mr. Belanger and one for Mr. Lepofsky.

Mr. Belanger, you support the bill, but it seems Indigenous people have been left off the table, and I can’t understand why. I know there have been discussions about nation to nation, but there are more than 600. So you support it, but you have been left out. If you could address that.

Mr. Lepofsky, you have not been much of a fan of the CRTC, CTA and others. You have an amendment here, so could you explain that amendment to us and how that would work? There is supposed to be no wrong door, but there seem to be a lot of doors, so if you could talk about your amendment, to get that on the record.

Mr. Belanger: (not included here)

 

 

Senator Munson: Mr. Lepofsky?

Mr. Lepofsky: Thank you. Sometimes it helps when you have someone who is blind and what you are facing is a bit of a smoke screen. The “no wrong door stuff” that you’ve been hearing about, respectfully, I think has been raised by those presenting it as a smokescreen, or as least it is serving that way.

What do I mean? Our strong preference from day one would be one-stop shopping — one agency, one place to go, one body making the regulations. It is quicker, more efficient, fairer and certainly easier for us.

The current regime only serves the interests of organizations that want to use the splintering to make it harder for us. But we know that in the amendments that you are going to pass in the next two weeks that a total rewrite of the major chunks of the bill is not feasible.

So what do we do? What could fix it? “No wrong door” talks about where you get in. It is not the most important thing. What happens when you get there? Right now, we have four agencies with four different procedures, with four different policies and practices, and there will be four different sets of forms and four different potential sets of deadlines. It is a guarantee of chaos for us, but it will be great for the airlines because they know them, or the broadcasters because they’ve been navigating them and they are lawyered up to be able to do that.

So what’s our solution? A simple amendment that says that the major bodies are required to develop, within a timeline that we prescribe, a series of processes to harmonize and have, essentially, the same procedure, or as close as possible, behind the door when you get there.

We heard yesterday from the leads of those agencies that they have started working together on their processes, but there are no commitments whatsoever to ensure that it is the same process. The bill now, in sections 94 to 110, prescribes a series of expedited processes at the accessibility commissioner. We say, great, if they work expeditiously, but neither the CTA nor the CRTC have been experienced by people with disabilities as expeditious — much the reverse.

My last point is you heard yesterday from these agencies that are generally serious in saying all they’ve done. That’s understandable from them. But can I just take you to the front lines for a minute? I will just tell you my own personal experience. I could aggregate it across all the feedback we get.

CTA’s track record historically is pretty lousy. They finally got religion three years ago and are starting to work on regulations. They’ve had the power to do this for over 30 years. Where have they been? As a blind person who travels internationally, I can tell you I dread entering Canadian airspace, not because we never get service, but it is way more unreliable here than I have seen otherwise.

The CRTC. In the U.S., it has been federal law since, I believe, 2016 that cable providers must provide an accessible PVR. In Canada, where is the CRTC? It is not required here. It should be, but it is not.

So please take the track records and understand that our jadedness is well justified. But our solution is what you can do in a short period is at least require the other agencies, if we are stuck with them, to come up with not just statements to you yesterday about how they want to be expeditious, but actually require them to come up with processes that will be expeditious. That’s what our amendment proposes….

(Passage omitted)

 

 

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you for that.

Mr. Lepofsky, I will come back to Senator Seidman’s question, and that is the whole concept of the balance of getting this through — I can’t help but bring this up just one more time — in an efficient and expedient and respectful way, and balancing what are significant concerns and amendments that, in many cases, are kind of related. Now that we have this, how do we make sure the stuff gets done?

Mr. Lepofsky: Two things. First, we are used to battling uphill. Doing disability rights advocacy is like swimming up Niagara Falls, but that doesn’t deter us. We keep doing it. When the people are more jittery and “We better just take what we can get” and all that stuff, I get that. But we’ve never taken that view. We’ve stared down the risks.

If we took that view, we would not have gotten a disability amendment in 1982. We probably would have settled for a weak accessibility law passed in Ontario in 2001 rather than standing our ground and getting a stronger one in 2005. And in this case, we have all three parties that voted for this law in the house, though the opposition said it is too weak. We wrote to all the party leaders and said : We want to take this risk off the table. Will you promise, if this bill doesn’t come through, you will bring it back in the fall?

So we are putting even more heat on them. We are saying: We want to come back with amendments from the Senate, if the Senate agrees, and decide on this bill in time to get it properly considered. Do whatever you have to do, pass it with the amendments or not. That could be dealt with before the house rises. And they’ve got the shared pressure of all the groups you’ve heard from that are jointly saying: Please get this thing through.

So the pressure will be on them. But we also have the good fortune that we have opposition parties — we are non-partisan, and we are supporting amendments in the house. We are hoping — and I will be seeing the minister this afternoon — that they will see the wisdom of strengthening this.

The final thing I will say, senator, is it is a legitimate concern, but I think it is a concern that has been answered. Minister Qualtrough answered your concern last week. Senator Munson asked her: Are you open to amendments? She could have said: Look, it is too tight. We are too busy. We are not going to be able to get it through; please just approve it.

That’s not what she said. She knew as much as anyone else in this room about the legislative timelines in the house. She probably knows more because she is part of the government. She said: No they are open to amendments, and we want this to be the best bill it possibly can be.

The fact of the matter is, with our short three pages of amendments covering a few core issues that cut across what people said at HUMA and the issues they raised here, that these will help move in the direction that she said she is open to. So I suggest you take her up and hold her to what she said.

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Ma question s’adresse à Monsieur Lepofsky.)

(après anglais — M. Belanger: … but that’s what I believe.)

La sénatrice Mégie: Ma question s’adresse à Monsieur Lepofsky. J’ai cru comprendre que vous avez collaboré à l’élaboration de la Loi sur l’accessibilité pour les personnes handicapées de l’Ontario. Ai-je bien compris?

(anglais suit — M. Lepofsky: Yes. Here’s the quick CV…)

(Following French – Senator Mégie – . . .ai-je bien compris?)

Mr. Lepofsky: Yes, here’s the quick CV — in 1980 .

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Je voulais juste ajouter ma. . .)

(après anglais — M. Lepofsky: … in 1980 —)

La sénatrice Mégie: Je voulais juste ajouter ma réelle question.

Avaient-ils un échéancier? S’ils en avaient un, est-ce que vous observez un mouvement pour la mise en œuvre de cet échéancier?

(anglais suit — M. Lepofsky: There was a movement to get the legislation…)

(Following French – Senator Mégie – . . .de cet échéancier?)

Mr. Lepofsky: There was a movement to get the legislation in place and I had the privilege of leading that movement. It was passed unanimously in 2005. The idea of the deadline of 2025 came from the government, not from us. The minister who brought it in came to the house committee here and said, “You should do it, too,” and we agreed with her. It was a great idea and we jumped on it and said it was great. It may not be as quick as we’d like, but it got action going. Are they on schedule now? No.

Senator, your colleagues were asking questions about the five-year review. We’ve had three of these reviews in Ontario. Their core job is to say, “Are we on schedule?” And all three reviews demonstrated — the most recent one in the most blistering terms — no, we’re not and we need strong action.

Now, if we didn’t have that deadline, their review could be informative but it certainly wouldn’t have the message that it does that we are far behind schedule. This came up in question period as recently as yesterday in the Ontario legislature. It is a critical tool.

Let me give you one more example because you are asking, “Will this help?” The Toronto Transit Commission runs a subway and has a whole bunch of subway stations. Approximately half of them have no elevator. But to its credit, the TTC has a plan to make them all accessible by 2025 because they’ve read the Ontario legislation.

Actually, the Ontario government has not passed a regulation addressing subway stations, but the mere presence of that date in the legislation itself has lead this major subway to adopt that plan.

Let me tell you one more thing. They tried to back down from that plan a few years ago and push it back, and we went to the media and said: “Not fair; the act says 2025.” And that media pressure led the TTC to back down and stick to 2025.

If the minister’s approach to this legislation had prevailed in Ontario, we would be further behind in getting those subway stations accessible.

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Merci.)

(après anglais — M. Lepofsky: … those subway stations accessible.)

La sénatrice Mégie: Merci.

Senator Dasko: I will focus specifically on your meeting with the minister this afternoon. In the interests of being efficient and especially effective, in your meeting with the minister could you focus her mind on what she would be willing to do, and could you get back to us with any insights or promises, pledges, intelligence, anything you can? That will help us move forward, given the time frame that’s left, given the suggestions you have for us, which in my mind seem serious and extensive. But maybe it is all easy, but I’m a new senator.

If you could learn from the minister what she would be willing to do — and I’m not saying that will determine what we do — that will help us very much in what we do. Then we will understand what might be doable and what all of us, in the end, might hope to expect and get from the process. Can I ask you that question?

Mr. Lepofsky: As a deputant who is notorious for long, wordy answers, my answer is yes.

Senator Dasko: We look forward to getting back to you. And I know Senator Omidvar has a question.

Senator Omidvar: Thank you for being here. And Mr. Lepofsky, for the correspondence that you have been in with not just me but everyone. And I want to probe your assessment the capacity, of the CRTC and the CTA on disability accessibility. They were here yesterday. I quoted to them a section of your letter, a rather blistering assessment of their lack of progress. They, in turn, responded by talking about the great pride they have in the progress they have made. And I will quote from a brief submitted to this committee from the CRTC. They talk about the history of their progress: In the mid 1980s, they —mandated TTY relay services. In 2009, it was expanded to include the provision of IP relay services, and five years later, the provision of video relay services. A 911 service is currently mandated. In 2009, the CRTC began to require broadcasters to provide described video services four hours per week. Would you still use the word “lousy” to describe their progress?

Mr. Lepofsky: Only in public. In private, they may be slightly more colourful.

Senator Omidvar: Tell us what you can.

Mr. Lepofsky: I say this not just to be glib, but we are not saying that they did nothing. Full disclosure: Scott Streiner, the head of the CTA, is a good guy with a strong record in human rights. If you could pass an amendment to make him immortal, we would vote for it, okay?

Senator Omidvar: Not in our power.

Mr. Lepofsky: I don’t know if you have the authority. That may be provincial.

I say two things in terms of these agencies. The first is that they do not have core expertise. They are not there; they are experts in broadcasting and in transit, not in accessibility. That’s what the accessibility commissioner will be.

Look at the track record of the CTA — three decades, their own draft regulation out for comment now acknowledges that they have not done enough. Why couldn’t they have done some of this years ago? We didn’t just invent people with disabilities using airplanes or trains. This is not new. It is not rocket science.

The final thing I would say is what the amendment focuses on. They have labyrinthian procedures that are designed for major regulatory decision-making. I get that. But it is not suited to us. That’s why we give credit to the government in its design of sections 94 to 110 to come up with something even more streamlined than the sometimes more labyrinthian process of the Human Rights Commission.

But we need those other agencies to talk about not just no wrong door, but equally fast, comparable procedures, once you get behind that door. And I didn’t hear them say they were going to do that, or didn’t hear them saying they were going to commit to doing that. That’s why we need this amendment.

Senator Omidvar: Fine. Thank you.



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AODA Alliance to Present to Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Thursday April 11, 2019 on the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act


Here are the Specific Amendments We will Ask the Senate to Make to the Bill

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

April 8, 2019

SUMMARY

The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs is holding sped-up public hearings on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. The AODA Alliance has been invited to make a presentation to the Standing Committee at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 11, 2019. You can come to watch the hearing live at this address:

Room W110, 1 Wellington St. Ottawa Ontario.

You can also watch the hearing live online at http://senparlvu.parl.gc.ca/XRender/en

The online video will be archived for future viewing, for those who watch it live. In the hearing room will be ASL and LSQ. The sign language will not be available on line for a few days.

We are working hard to get ready for these hearings on such short notice. However, we are not complaining. This is because these tight time lines will give the Senate enough time to amend Bill C-81 to strengthen it, if it is willing, and for the bill to return to the House of Commons for a debate and final vote on those amendments.

This strengthens the hand of the many, including the AODA Alliance, who are campaigning to get this weak bill strengthened. There is no need to avoid seeking amendments because the bill can’t get through Parliament before the fall election.

The public hearings are only taking place on April 10 and 11, and then on May 1. The Standing Committee will only have one meeting, on May 2, to undertake its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. It is at that May 2 meeting when amendments would be considered.

That means the Senate’s Standing Committee will have very little time to debate amendments. Our list of proposed amendments must be very very short. We have thus worked through the weekend to produce the following 4-page document, which we are now submitting to the Senate. It sets out the wording of the absolutely top-priority amendments we are requesting. We know that this list does not include many of the amendments we need. However, given the tight time lines, a longer list of amendments, coming from us, would actually work against our hope for success.

You will also see that this document sets out a series of recommended “observations.” The Senate can attach statements like these to a bill, calling for further action, whether or not it makes amendments to the bill.

We need your help more than ever. Please email the Senate Standing Committee to urge the senators to amend Bill C-81, as we are proposing. We appreciate the efforts of all of you who have already done so. For those who believe people with disabilities deserve a strong national accessibility law, this is the best way you can help us now. Write the Standing Committee at: [email protected]

Visit our website to learn all about the background to Bill C-81 and our efforts to get it strengthened.

If your organization is going to present to the Standing Committee or submit a brief, we invite you to support these amendments and any others that you consider important. As the following document notes, during the April 3, 2019 meeting of this Senate Standing Committee, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough made an important commitment. We plan to hold her and the Federal Government to it. Senator Munson, who is the sponsor of Bill C-81 in the Senate pointed out to her that there are calls from the disability community for this bill to be amended because it does not go far enough. He asked her if she was open to the bill being amended. Minister Qualtrough agreed that she was open to the bill being amended in the Senate. She said she wants this law to be the best it can be. We here take her up on that offer.

We are sorry that we are not now providing more detailed explanations for the following information. We are rushing to get this to you, to Senators, and others whom we need to reach.

MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Proposed Amendments to Bill C-81 Submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs April 8, 2019
Speaking to the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee on April 3, 2019, Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said she would be open to amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, and that she wants to make this bill “the best it can possibly be.”

We offer this short list of vital amendments, given the Senate’s tight time lines. Had there been more time, a number of other important amendments would have been proposed.

A. Setting a Deadline to Achieve Accessibility

Amendment 1
Section 5 of the Act should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it will provide:

“5?The purpose of this Act is to benefit all persons, especially persons with disabilities, through the realization, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, ”

Amendment 2
The following section should be added to the bill:

“Clarification
5.2. Nothing in this Act, including in its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, should be construed as authorizing or requiring any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers as soon as reasonably possible.”

Amendment 3
Section 11 should be amended to add the words on or before January 1, 2040, so that it would provide:

“11?(1)?The Ministers mandate is the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040”.

Amendment 4
Section 18 should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it would provide in material part:

“18?The Standards Organizations mandate is to contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, through, among other things,”

B. Setting Mandatory Duties

Amendment 5
The bill should be amended to add this subsection to section 117:

“Obligation

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

Amendment 6
Section 2 definition of “barrier” should be amended to add the words “a law”, so that it will read in material part:

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

C. Ensuring the Bill Does Not Reduce Rights of People with Disabilities

Amendment 7
Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 8
Section 6 should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it:

“(2) For greater certainty, in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the provisions of that Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.”

Amendment 9
The following provision should be added to the bill:

“123?
Section 123.1.

(1) The Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must within the period of six months that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 194 to 110 of the Act.”

Amendment 10
The bill should be amended to add the following provision:

11.1.

(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers.

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

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

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

Amendment 11
Section 72(1) should be amended to add the words “except any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada)”, so that the provision will read in material part:

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

Observations We Ask the Senate to Attach to Bill C-81

1. Since the bill is entitled “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities but does not require any barriers to be removed, the Committee recommends that the bill be strengthened.
2. Because the bill depends on the Federal Government and various agencies to use their new powers, but does not require most of those powers to be used, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government report back to the Senate in one year on what duties and time lines for action could be added to the bill.

3. Because of concerns from the disability community about the bill splintering its implementation and enforcement, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government 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.

4. 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 bill should be strengthened to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.



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AODA Alliance to Present to Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Thursday April 11, 2019 on the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – Here are the Specific Amendments We will Ask the Senate to Make to the Bill


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

AODA Alliance to Present to Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Thursday April 11, 2019 on the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – Here are the Specific Amendments We will Ask the Senate to Make to the Bill

April 8, 2019

          SUMMARY

The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs is holding sped-up public hearings on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. The AODA Alliance has been invited to make a presentation to the Standing Committee at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 11, 2019. You can come to watch the hearing live at this address:

Room W110, 1 Wellington St. Ottawa Ontario.

You can also watch the hearing live online at http://senparlvu.parl.gc.ca/XRender/en

The online video will be archived for future viewing, for those who watch it live. In the hearing room will be ASL and LSQ. The sign language will not be available on line for a few days.

We are working hard to get ready for these hearings on such short notice. However, we are not complaining. This is because these tight time lines will give the Senate enough time to amend Bill C-81 to strengthen it, if it is willing, and for the bill to return to the House of Commons for a debate and final vote on those amendments.

This strengthens the hand of the many, including the AODA Alliance, who are campaigning to get this weak bill strengthened. There is no need to avoid seeking amendments because the bill can’t get through Parliament before the fall election.

The public hearings are only taking place on April 10 and 11, and then on May 1. The Standing Committee will only have one meeting, on May 2, to undertake its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. It is at that May 2 meeting when amendments would be considered.

That means the Senate’s Standing Committee will have very little time to debate amendments. Our list of proposed amendments must be very very short. We have thus worked through the weekend to produce the following 4-page document, which we are now submitting to the Senate. It sets out the wording of the absolutely top-priority amendments we are requesting. We know that this list does not include many of the amendments we need. However, given the tight time lines, a longer list of amendments, coming from us, would actually work against our hope for success.

You will also see that this document sets out a series of recommended “observations.” The Senate can attach statements like these to a bill, calling for further action, whether or not it makes amendments to the bill.

We need your help more than ever. Please email the Senate Standing Committee to urge the senators to amend Bill C-81, as we are proposing. We appreciate the efforts of all of you who have already done so. For those who believe people with disabilities deserve a strong national accessibility law, this is the best way you can help us now. Write the Standing Committee at: [email protected]

Visit our website to learn all about the background to Bill C-81 and our efforts to get it strengthened.

If your organization is going to present to the Standing Committee or submit a brief, we invite you to support these amendments and any others that you consider important. As the following document notes, during the April 3, 2019 meeting of this Senate Standing Committee, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough made an important commitment. We plan to hold her and the Federal Government to it. Senator Munson, who is the sponsor of Bill C-81 in the Senate pointed out to her that there are calls from the disability community for this bill to be amended because it does not go far enough. He asked her if she was open to the bill being amended. Minister Qualtrough agreed that she was open to the bill being amended in the Senate. She said she wants this law to be the best it can be. We here take her up on that offer.

We are sorry that we are not now providing more detailed explanations for the following information. We are rushing to get this to you, to Senators, and others whom we need to reach.

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Proposed Amendments to Bill C-81 Submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs

April 8, 2019

Speaking to the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee on April 3, 2019, Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said she would be open to amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, and that she wants to make this bill “the best it can possibly be.”

We offer this short list of vital amendments, given the Senate’s tight time lines. Had there been more time, a number of other important amendments would have been proposed.

A. Setting a Deadline to Achieve Accessibility

Amendment 1

Section 5 of the Act should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it will provide:

“5 The purpose of this Act is to benefit all persons, especially persons with disabilities, through the realization, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, …”

Amendment 2

The following section should be added to the bill:

“Clarification

5.2. Nothing in this Act, including in its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, should be construed as authorizing or requiring any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers as soon as reasonably possible.”

Amendment 3

Section 11 should be amended to add the words on or before January 1, 2040, so that it would provide:

“11 (1) The Minister’s mandate is the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040”.

Amendment 4

Section 18 should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it would provide in material part:

“18 The Standards Organization’s mandate is to contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, through, among other things,…”

 B. Setting Mandatory Duties

Amendment 5

The bill should be amended to add this subsection to section 117:

“Obligation

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

Amendment 6

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

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

C. Ensuring the Bill Does Not Reduce Rights of People with Disabilities

Amendment 7

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 8

Section 6 should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it:

“(2) For greater certainty, in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the provisions of that Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.”

Amendment 9

The following provision should be added to the bill:

“123

Section 123.1.

(1) The Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must within the period of six months that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 194 to 110 of the Act.”

Amendment 10

The bill should be amended to add the following provision:

11.1.

(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers.

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

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

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

Amendment 11

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

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

Observations We Ask the Senate to Attach to Bill C-81

  1. Since the bill is entitled “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities but does not require any barriers to be removed, the Committee recommends that the bill be strengthened.
  2. Because the bill depends on the Federal Government and various agencies to use their new powers, but does not require most of those powers to be used, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government report back to the Senate in one year on what duties and time lines for action could be added to the bill.
  1. Because of concerns from the disability community about the bill splintering its implementation and enforcement, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government 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.
  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 bill should be strengthened to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.



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