Bill C-81 Recommended Changes for the Senate

Presented by the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance

DRAFT Dec 17, 2018

Who We Are

The Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA) is a partnership of 58 disability-related organizations from across Canada who have joined together to advise on the development of strong and effective legislation.

Position Statement

FALA expects that the Senate will strengthen the proposed Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81) by adopting the recommendations provided in this document.

Guiding Principles for this Document

  • FALA use the term “people(s) with disabilities” to describe individuals, groups and organizations of people with disabilities. The phrase includes people who do and do not identify as having a disability and Indigenous Peoples.
  • Typically, FALA recommendations have been developed to address issues raised by, and relevant to, people(s) with disabilities. We defer to reports from David Shannon Law, ARCH Disability Law Centre and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance to provide legal and technical recommendations.
  • FALA promotes a clear understanding of Bill C-81. This can be achieved by reading FALA’s plain language version developed in partnership with People First of Canada. Link to: https://include-me.ca/BillC81-plain-language
  • FALA recognizes that there is value in considering all submissions for improvements to Bill C-81 from people and organizations with disabilities.
  • FALA welcomes feedback on these recommendations. This is a living document and changes to the recommendations may occur as the legislative process progresses. Please send comments to: info@sci-can.ca
  • An “ * “ and blue, bold type indicates amendments to Bill C-81 that were made by the HUMA committee. The report of the committee was then adopted by the House of Commons. Following, Bill C-81 was given third reading.
  • FALA amendments to recommendations made to the HUMA Committee are in green italics

 

Recommendations for Improving Bill C-81

Terminology:

In all areas of Bill C-81, the term “may” must be changed to “shall”. This change will make it clear that specific actions are mandated to drive the effective implementation of the new legislation.

  • In all areas of Bill C-81, the terminology “Canadians with disabilities” must be changed to “people(s) in Canada with disabilities.” This will include landed immigrants and others who do not hold Canadian citizenship.
    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      * The term “Canadians with a disability” has been changed to “persons in Canada” to be inclusive of people who do not hold citizenship but live in Canada.
  • We support the definition of disability used in Bill C-81: “a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication or sensory impairment – or a functional limitation – whether permanent, temporary, episodic in nature, that, in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society”. However, we recommend that the words “evident or not” be added to the description of a functional limitation in this definition.
    Amendments made by the HUMA Committee:

    • *The definition of Disability was expanded to include “cognitive”. It also included the recognition of visible and invisible disabilities through evidence or not to ensure that invisible disabilities are recognized. The word “including” within the definition was added to
      signify that this is not an exhaustive list.
    • *The word “abilities” was removed within the Preamble of the Act in order to be clear that the focus is on the recognition and removal of barriers experienced by people with disabilities. “Abilities” was also removed from the Principle section of the Act.
    • *The term “emotional harm” has been changed to “psychological harm” to be more inclusive. This amendment was made to ensure consistency throughout the bill.

 

Timelines for Achieving a Barrier-Free Canada:

  • Specific timelines/deadlines must be created for:
    • Establishing the infrastructure to implement the Accessible Canada Act:
      • Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization
        (CASDO)
      • Standards and regulations committees
      • Chief Accessibility Officer and office
      • Accessibility Commissioner and office
    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      *Government has set a goal of 12 months after Royal Assent of Bill C-81 to have CASDO, the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner offices up and running.
    • Setting and implementing the standards and regulations
  • For substantive and progressive change:
    • A deadline date must be set within a five-year period following Royal Assent for approving ALL standards and regulations in each specific area required.
    • A deadline for full implementation of each standard and regulation, following their approval, must be set within 18-month period.
    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      *A timeline was added requiring that the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Minister responsible for the Act make at least one regulation relating to reporting requirements within two years of
      the Act coming into force. This two-year requirement kick starts the timing for the five-year parliamentary review meaning that substantial progress should be achieved in the first seven years.
    • It must be understood that there will always be continual progression towards a barrier-free society. It is not realistic to think that a deadline date will mark full compliance or completion of accessibility in Canada.
      Therefore, a review must occur every three years and a public report of progress must be developed with the intention of constant improvement.
    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      * The word “progressive” was removed to emphasize that the goal is to realize a Canada without barriers as opposed to a “progressive realization”. The intent is to recognize that accessibility is an ever-evolving
      task over time.

 

Creating a Culture of Inclusion and Equity:

  • All people employed by the federal public sector including parliamentarians and staff, must engage in an intensive education program that ensures they understand and demonstrate inclusive attitudes and equitable practices that
    promote dignity for all people(s) with disabilities.
  • All employees of the federal public sector must be exemplary role models for creating a culture of inclusion and equity.
  • Policies and practices must be set and followed that change ablest attitudes.
  • Employment outreach strategies must include actively recruiting people(s) with disabilities.
    • FALA amendments to recommendations:
      A strategy for education of parliamentarians, their staff and public sector employees is being developed by the government for implementation following Royal Assent.
      FALA recognizes this area is relevant to implementation and calls for a commitment from the Government of Canada to actively engage people(s) with disabilities in designing, delivering and evaluating this education program.

 

Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization and Chief Accessibility Officer Independence:

  • The Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO) and the Chief Accessibility Officer must operate at arm’s length of the Government of Canada.
  • The CASDO staff, board and committee members must have experience in issues related to disability, accessibility and standards/regulations development.
  • The CASDO staff, board and committees must include a minimum of 2/3 of people(s) living with disabilities and represent diversity, inclusive of Indigenous peoples.
  • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
    *The need for diversity of disability representation on the Board of
    Directors of CASDO has been added to the Bill.
  • Participation from services departments is required on CASDO standards and regulations committees. For example, when justice standards and regulations are being developed, a Department of Justice representative must participate.
    • Comment from Minister’s Office:
      CASDO board representation remains at 50% plus 1% of people with disabilities which allows for CASDO to be eligible for accreditation nationally and internationally as a standards organization.

 

Compliance:

  • The Government of Canada must promote compliance, and in some cases require compliance, of federal standards and regulations by funding recipients.
    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      *Clarification was provided that the Minister is required to make
      every reasonable effort to collaborate with provincial and territorial governments around harmonizing accessibility requirements across different jurisdictions.
  • Where the funding recipient is subject to provincial/territorial standards that are distinct from federal standards, the best standard of the two will apply.
    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      *An amendment added a new principle that would signal that the intention of the Act is to ensure the greatest level of accessibility as each standard is developed and each regulation is made.
  • Funding provided by the Government of Canada cannot support entities that have existing barriers for people(s) with disabilities. Nor can funding be provided to entities if new barriers will be created for people(s) with disabilities.

 

Address All Barriers:

  • The new legislation must recognize the need to focus on all barriers for people(s) with disabilities that are subject to federal jurisdiction.
    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      *A new clause was added to clarify that each accessibility plan obligates the regulated entity, whether it is government or industry, must take into account the principles set out in section 6 of Bill C-81 when it’s preparing accessibility plans or an updated version of that plan. This emphasizes the importance of plans being effective and having an impact on removing barriers.
  • Barriers in all facets of priority areas identified within Bill C-81 must be removed (i.e. built environment, employment, information and communication technologies, procurement of goods and services, program and service delivery, communication and transportation).
    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      * The word “design” was added to the Purpose clause of the Act to ensure that both the design and delivery of programs and services will be addressed by the Bill. There also was amendment to add “facilities” to procurement to ensure the procurement of goods,
      services “and facilities” was included.
  • Action must be taken to support people with disabilities who experience multiple barriers and those who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and marginalization.

 

Communication:

  • The six targeted barrier areas must be expanded to include the domain of Communication. This change will bring focus to barriers, accommodations and supports for people(s) with communication disabilities and as well for people who are Deaf. The ability to communicate impacts all service areas through face-toface interactions, telecommunications, public forums and consultations, reading, writing and e-communications. Therefore, it is too important to not be included as one of the targeted areas.
  • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
    * Communication has been added as a priority area to be addressed.

 

Access to Communication Accommodations and Supports:

  • Communication accommodations and supports as required (e.g., ALS / LSQ, CART/captioning, plain language, and other communication assistance) must be made mandatory through standards and regulations.
    • FALA amendments to recommendations:
      FALA recognizes this area is relevant to implementation and calls for a commitment from the Government of Canada that communication accommodations and supports will be developed and made mandatory through standards and regulations.

 

ASL/LSQ Language Recognition:

  • Recognize ASL/LSQ as the official languages of people who are Deaf in Canada. These languages are equal to English and French for full accessibility to information and services. Include ASL and LSQ as essential parts of all elements of this Act, including standards and regulations.
  • Currently, there are over 45 countries where governments have recognized sign languages. Examples include: the Philippines, Ireland, Greece, Scotland, Italy, Mexico, and New Zealand. Such recognition in Canada will ensure the removal of barriers and ensure equal access for people who are Deaf.

 

Effective Complaints Management and Enforcement System:

  • A complaints management and enforcement system must be in place to receive and direct complaints to the appropriate government agency or department (e.g. the Accessibility Commissioner, the Canadian Radio-television and
    Telecommunications Commission).

    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      *A streamlined complaints process of the “no wrong door” concept is being developed to effectively support, in a timely and efficient manner, the people who register complaints.
    • FALA amendments to recommendations:
      FALA appreciates the “no wrong door” concept. FALA calls for a commitment from the Government of Canada to engage people(s) with disabilities to help design and monitor the accessibility, efficiency and effectiveness of this system and of the broader complaints process.
  • Safeguards must be established to:
    • prevent compliance disputes between regulated agencies.
    • ensure that complaints are resolved expeditiously while using a standard process with a single-entry point.
    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      *Recognizing that the request for an appeal from people with disabilities may require more time, the window of opportunity for requesting an appeal has been changed from 30 days to 60 days.
  • Annual complaint summary reports that outline types of complaints, numbers of complaints and resolutions for complaints, must be made public to provide transparency, however, individual privacy must be maintained.
    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      *The independent review process has been amended to allow for more than one person to be involved, for example a panel can now be engaged.
  • There must be a mechanism in place to ensure the timely enforcement of regulations and a description for how monetary penalties will be used to force compliance.
    • Amendment made by the HUMA Committee:
      *Federal entities that receive exemptions are subject to a three-year time limit, and greater accountability is required in that a rationale for any exemption must be made publicly available.

 

Indigenous Peoples:

  • Specific barriers faced by Indigenous peoples must be a priority addressed in areas that fall within the jurisdiction of First Nations governments. The legislation must include recognition of Indigenous rights, the unique relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations, Metis and Inuit people, and the fiduciary responsibilities owed by the Government of Canada to Indigenous peoples and their wellbeing, with special consideration of Indigenous women,youth and elders with disabilities.
  • Consideration must be given to the final determination regarding First Nations communities in Canada and their involvement/compliance with new legislation or under a distinct First Nation accessibility legislation (as requested by the Assembly of First Nations through Resolution no – 98/2017). Regardless of this determination, First Nations funding levels and policies must incorporate a disability lens/component to fully address barriers listed above within all First Nations communities in Canada.

 

Funding:

  • Funding must be made available so that people(s) with disabilities are properly compensated for their contributions to the design and implementation of this legislation. Too often people(s) with disabilities are asked for their lived experience and disability expertise with no financial compensation.
  • Funding is also needed to develop toolkits, guides, trainings and other resources to ensure successful implementation.

 

For more information contact Bill Adair bill@sci-can.ca

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