Open Letter on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act

Photograph of a wheelchair sitting atop a three dimensional rendering of a map of the entire country of Canada which is, in turn, overlaid with the Canadian flag.

Open Letter on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act
To: All Members of Parliament
Date: May 16, 2019

The undersigned national, provincial and local disability groups ask all Members of Parliament to commit to swiftly pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) passed on May 2, 2019.

We commend the Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough for championing this Bill and her openness to considering amendments to it, as she expressed to the Senate Standing Committee.

The Senate Standing Committee heard from a spectrum of disability organizations and advocates who supported the need for national accessibility legislation and who recommended areas where the bill could be improved to achieve its goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for people with disabilities.

SOCI chair Senator Chantal Petitclerc concluded the committee’s debates by stating that the committee’s amendments reflect the maxim of disability communities: “Nothing about us without us”.

While they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, the Senate’s amendments improve Bill C-81.

The amendments include:

  • Setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible; ensuring that this time line does not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible;
  • recognizing American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages as the primary languages for communication used by Deaf people;
  • making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered;
  • ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it cannot cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act;
  • ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency cannot reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the Agency handles complaints about barriers in transportation;
  • and fixing problems the Federal Government identified between the bill’s employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.

It is expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by May 16, 2019. The bill then returns to the House of Commons, for a vote on the Senate’s amendments. It is critical that the House pass all of the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81, to ensure that this important bill swiftly becomes law.

We ask the House of Commons to schedule a vote on the bill as soon as possible. We ask all MPs to vote to pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

If the House of Commons does anything less, it will weaken the bill, and risk the possibility that the bill will not finish its journey through Parliament before the Fall.

Organization / Group: Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières
Organization / Group Contact Name: Donna J. Jodhan
Contact E-mail: info@barrierfreecanada.org
Statement: My organization / group would like to sign the Open Letter on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act

Photo Alt: Photograph of a wheelchair sitting atop a three dimensional rendering of a map of the entire country of Canada which is, in turn, overlaid with the Canadian flag.

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