BFC-CSB Speaking Notes for Presentation to the Senate Standing Committee April 11, 2019

Barrier Free Canada Logo. Image of a light blue maple leaf with a white diagonal section of the leaf missing, giving the appearance of a circle with a line through it that bans what is on the inside. This maple leaf is intended to ban inaccessibility. To the right of the light blue maple leaf are the words, 'Barrier Free Canada' and 'Sans Barriere Canada'. Welcome to Barrier Free Canada.

BFC-CSB Speaking Notes for Presentation to the Senate Standing Committee
April 11 2019

Introduction

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières is a grass roots non-partisan organization. We were founded in late 2014 and we were instrumental in kick starting the campaign for the Canadian Government to pass Legislation to enact a Canadians with disabilities Act for a Barrier free Canada.

At the present time, we are supported by over 25 National organizations across Canada, we have been endorsed by the cities of Toronto and Halifax, and individual support continues to grow steadily with a present base of about two thousand persons.

We have also established a social media presence with over 3,000 followers on Facebook and hundreds of followers to our Facebook group BFC advocating for change.

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières is grateful for having been given this opportunity to have our voice heard.

We believe that when this Act is passed it will go down in history as one of the most important pieces of Legislation as it pertains to the rights of Canadians with disabilities, to their friends and to their families and we look forward to continued collaboration with the Government on this very important piece of Legislation.

To learn more about us please visit: http://barrierfreecanada.org/home/.

Major Points

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Bill C-81 does not recognize ASL/LSQ as the official languages of people who are Deaf.

10. It is unfortunate that penalties sometimes must be applied for non-compliance. In the draft Bill these penalties can go up to $250,000.00. there is no minimum! The three categories normally applied are “minor”, “serious”, and “very serious”. We are asking that a minimum penalty be applied to any non-compliance and that this minimum penalty start at least at $50,000.00. We, people with disabilities, will be affected drastically on any non-compliance.

It is our sincere hope that Bill C81 will be given Royal Ascent before the next Federal Elections in October because if it is not then we are afraid that years of hard work on the part of both this Government as well as many organizations and individuals would have been for naught.

We thank the Senate for all of its hard work and dedication and a special thanks to Senator Jim Munson for his leadership and we look forward to the Senate putting its mark on this historic piece of Legislation.

Signed
Donna J. Jodhan
President Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières
http://www.barrierfreecanada.org/

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