Table of contents

  1. Summary of recent events
  2. How to become more involved in Minister Qualtrough’s public engagement hearings
  3. From around the country
  4. Question for consideration
  5. Next steps
  6. Contact info

Summary of Recent Events

The month of November saw various committee members of BFC-CSB making presentations and attending meetings across the country.

In early November David Lepofsky attended several meetings in Newfoundland and Labrador relating to public engagements on a Canadians with disabilities Act and he participated in a meeting that saw the birth of a Barrier Free Newfoundland and Labrador group.

In Mid November Marc Workman traveled to Toronto to attend a meeting hosted by the Canadian access and inclusion project group. This group is made up of about 28 organizations representing persons with a wide range of disabilities.

Also in mid November, Donna Jodhan traveled to Montreal to attend a ministerial round table engagement meeting that focused on issues pertaining to transportation. The meeting was extremely engaging and productive and was attended by 15 organizations. The meeting was hosted by the Office for Disability issues and organizations that attended included:

  9. CUTA

During the month of November Pina Dintino attended tele conferences hosted by CCD where matters pertaining to the CRPd were discussed. Pina attended meetings in Ottawa and New York in early december as BFC-CSB’s rep and below are some of her views with regard to moving forward.

1. “Harmonization and ensuring that we come across to the CRPD Secretariat as having strong harmonized and implementable regulations in Canada.

The second issue is around having strong advocacy programs and tools available to all people. And lastly I would suggest that we have strong measurement mechanisms to ensure that the regulations drawn have a strong and tangible social impact.

There is nothing worst in my opinion than having a ton of regulations that businesses and public services must adhere to but truly do not make a difference in someone’s life on a day to day basis.”

In November Barrier Free Newfoundland and Labrador joined the BFC-CSB family and we now have affiliates in the following provinces:

British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

News coverage

The following are news articles that you may find of interest.

1. From Ottawa

PM paid a surprise visit to youth forum on disability Story link below from university newspaper

2. From Nova Scotia: McNeil government punts on accessibility

3. An extract taken from The Leveller, November 23, 2016

Silent No More: Ottawa consults on national disability act, demonstrations for disability justice remain strong

by Alex William

The Leveller, November 23, 2016

With a national disability act in preparation, the federal government is continuing its consultation process to address concerns within the disability community. On Nov. 1, over 100 people with disabilities arrived at Carleton University to take part in the National Youth Forum on an Accessible Canada. While many issues arose during the youth forum, one of the most prominent and recurring problems is the close correlation between disability and poverty.

People with disabilities are among the most poor and most marginalized in Canadian society. There are many reasons for this, including employment discrimination, uninsurable support costs and income assistance programs, like the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), that keep recipients below the poverty line. Indeed, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that a single person without children who receives ODSP support is still below the poverty line by approximately 33 per cent.

While the $2 million dedicated to preparing for the federal legislation is a unique investment in disability issues, at the grassroots level the work of disability leaders often remains unfunded and unsupported.

For example, over the past six years, disability activists have maintained a tradition of taking to the streets of downtown Toronto in what is known as the Toronto Disability Pride March (TDPM).

Operating at a zero budget, TDPM is a far cry from a parade. It is a march — rooted in traditions of direct action and the struggle for recognition.

“We don’t get a lot of empathy. People fear us. They used to lock us away, put us out of sight,” explains Diem Lafortune, a regular guest speaker at TDPM events.

Lafortune is a singer-songwriter, a teacher, and a Cree and Jewish woman (“Crewish”, she quips).

“We are not intended to get into the legislative building – it is not conducive to our presence,” she observes, drawing a powerful link between the physical barriers of the building and the political exclusion of disabled people from decision-making forums.

Because of this pervasive marginalization, the very presence of people with disabilities is a wake-up call for Canadian society.

Adding urgency to the situation, Lafortune points out that “the neoliberal agenda since the late 70s is a backlash against all the earlier inclusion work.”

Neoliberal austerity measures have had a disproportionate effect on those experiencing poverty and disability. In 2014, researcher and activist Simon Duffy analyzed the targeted nature of social cuts and reported that poor disabled people in England “bear a burden which is more than 4 times the (modal) average.” Given these unfair outcomes, TDPM’s collective action was both timely and urgent. Amidst heavy cutbacks, when more and more disabled people find access to a dignified life barred, simply taking pride in disability identity can be a challenging stance.

Yet, de-stigmatizing disability is not just an occasion for cultural celebration. It is intimately tied to social justice and serves as the foundation for recognizing and resisting disability violence — whether in the form of poverty, institutionalization, sexual abuse or even euthanasia.

Lafortune recounts how “not feeling safe” is a common experience for disabled people because societal values continue to privilege able-bodied white men.

Indeed, TDPM fits within a long tradition of organizing that responds to violence against disabled people and threats to their very material survival by re-asserting the value of disabled lives in the face of eugenic attempts to wipe them out.

At this year’s march, TDPM organizer and speaker Kevin Jackson recalled the history of protest marches, the first Psychiatric Survivor Pride Day in Toronto in September 1993, and a later march by disabled people from various communities protesting the murder of Toronto psychiatric survivor Edmond Yu, who was shot and killed by police on Feb. 20, 1997. Yu’s tragic death reflects a pattern where sanism, ableism, racism and other forms of discrimination intersect and create disastrous results for marginalized people.

Organizers have kept issues of racism, settler colonialism, sexism and class at the forefront of their concern as TDPM activists identify across a variety of social positions. Melissa Graham, the founder and co-organizer of the march, describes how the experiences of organizers reflect a diversity of disability identities. “As organizers, it’s important to us that the march reflects the community it’s representing, not just in terms of who participates, but in the composition of the organizing team. While we’re still working on organizing an anti-oppressive way, our team reflects a diversity of disabilities, genders, and people of colour. Our priority is to those most marginalized among disabled people.”

As such, TDPM’s strength is based on finding common ground and, according to its founders, this means “a harmony of voices, not one homogeneous voice.”

For Lafortune, the key to combating injustice is kindness and empathy towards difference: “If we want a kind society, we have to start being kind.”

Calling all disability and Mad activists to join together to organize an Ottawa Disability Pride March for 2017!

The introduction of a federal disability act makes this an important moment in the history of Canadian disability and Mad activist communities. We urgently need to make ourselves visible as the experts on disability and Mad issues.

By coming together to march, we will show that we are a force that cannot be ignored. Cooperation among disabled and Mad people proves that we can work together to lead change and influence political decision-making.

The Toronto Disability Pride March (TDPM) has demonstrated the collective strength of disability and Mad communities. Now it’s time to bring this collective action to the Capital!

Be Loud. Be Proud. Come March with us!

Send us an email to get involved:

This article was first published in the Leveller Vol. 9, No. 3

From around the country

From Newfoundland and Labrador

1. On November 4, 2016, Barrier-Free Canada’s newest provincial affiliate was founded. Barrier-Free Newfoundland and Labrador is working to ensure that a strong and effective accessibility law is enacted in Newfoundland and Labrador. The keynote speaker was AODA Alliance chair/Barrier-Free Canada Steering Committee member David Lepofsky. A minister in the provincial government already has this project in their Mandate Letter.

From Nova Scotia

2. During the week of October 31, 2016, the Nova Scotia Government introduced bill 59, the proposed Accessibility Act, into the Nova Scotia Legislature. It looked like that Government aimed to rush it through the Legislature.

However swift action by grassroots accessibility advocates in Nova Scotia turned the tide. They went to the Legislature on Monday, November 7, 2016 to object to the bill as far, far too weak. They garnered great media attention. As a result, the Nova Scotia Government put the bill and went back to the drawing board, having heard the message that people with disabilities in Nova Scotia deserve better.

From Barrier Free Nova Scotia

3. A report from Pat Gates, coordinator of Barrier Free Nova Scotia:

Update from Barrier Free Nova Scotia

The most exciting news from Nova Scotia is that after many years of anticipation and hope by individuals with disabilities and their supporters, the Province introduced an Accessibility Act, Bill 59, on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. It passed first reading on that day and passed second reading the following day, Wednesday, November 2. On Friday, November 4, some members of the disability population became aware that the government’s Law Amendments Committee would be meeting the following Monday, November 7 and and that Bill 59 was on their Agenda. In order to be able to speak to Bill 59 at that meeting, it was imperative that people register with the Provincial Clerk’s Office immediately. This very short notice was considered to be a barrier to those with disabilities wishing to address the Committee. Several members of various disability organizations, including Barrier Free N.S., as well as individuals with disabilities and several supporters scrambled to meet on Sunday, November 6 to put together a plan. That group received much valuable input from David Lepofsky and Patrick Falconer who have gone through this process in Ontario and Manitoba respectively. Nine people, including the BFNS Co-ordinator, were successful in registering to address the Law Amendments Committee the following day. All who spoke did so quite eloquently and encourage the government to slow the process of taking the Bill to third and final reading. It was felt that the people for whom this Act is crucial, the stakeholders – individuals with disabilities, had not had sufficient time to read the Bill and digest its’ implications and to respond to it. They also stressed the unanimous view that the Bill should not fall under the Department of Community Services but under the Department of Justice as the Bill relates to basic human rights. The Law Amendments Committee stayed or paused the Bill at that November 7 meeting. It should be noted that this Committee listened to those who addressed it with interest and courtesy.

The Department of Community Services has begun to reach out to the disability population to seek their input on the Bill. An initial meeting has been arranged for Monday, December 5 of the Advisory Panel and members of the various sub-committees who worked on the Bill. This meeting will give an “overview” of Bill 59. I am a member of one of the sub-committees and will be attending the meeting. From there, the Department plans to begin arranging various community meetings to seek input.

In the meantime, arrangements are being made to hold another meeting of community members to discuss next steps in the endeavour to have critical input into revising Bill 59 as it’s felt that the Bill does not have the substance it should have and that there are some barriers it simply does not address. We also await notification of when the Law Amendments Committee will resume its’ meetings. A meeting has also been set for the Co-ordinator of BFNS to meet with the Minister of Justice who is also Chair of the Law Amendments Committee.

*Bill 59 can be found at:

Patricia (Pat) Gates

Co-ordinator, Barrier Free N.S.

November 29, 2017

From Montreal

4. On November 16 Donna Jodhan attended one of Minister Qualtrough’s public hearings that was held in Montreal at the Palais de Congrès. It is estimated that around 300 people attended and a wide variety of questions were asked and answered.

Questions came from several individuals with various disabilities and concerns were raised that ranged from accessibility pertaining to the city of Montreal, to the role of the province of Québec in a Canadians with disabilities Act, to how a Canadians with Disabilities Act would address such things as language issues plus much more.

There was a brief presentation given by Irene Lambert; a long time advocate who represented the Montreal chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians and she reminded attendees that in 1978, québec passed a bill that sought to address several issues pertaining to accessibility.

This meeting was well organized. Speakers were given adequate time to express themselves and the views from individuals with a variety of disabilities were clearly heard. At the end of the meeting Minister Qualtrough’s representative made himself available to speak to those desiring to meet with him.

From Ottawa

5. On November 30 a similar public hearing was held in Ottawa and below is a personal report from one of our avid supporters and advocates Penny Leclair.

Consultation on Accessible Canada Act Ottawa November 30, 2016

The meeting started on time with approximately 100 people attending. The organizers had two rooms set up because of the great attendance. They had large screens to show French and English captioning for those who don’t know ASL or LSQ, and have a hearing loss. There were 4 interpreters for many participants who were deaf. I would say this community had their act together extremely well. Many spoke as members of an association and the theme of the need for video type communication and interpreters kept repeating with well versed presentations.

It seems that our meeting was the 15th, so they had learned from previous meetings to put some rules of process together for this meeting. A time limit of 3 minutes and a 30 second warning was explained so that no one could read a submission or be allowed to hog the floor.

I would say people spoke within the areas of the federal government responsibilities. Of course, the barrier of poverty came forward several times, but that is a real barrier for everyone who is expected to live on low incomes.

Several people attended who were blind. I thought we did a good job of stating key issues but no one stood to say the represented or supported an organization. We spoke for ourselves as we knew we had to.

John Rae, Robin East, Sharlyn Ayotte, Chris Stark Dean and myself had the opportunity to speak.

I may have missed others as they used the second room they had set up, to accommodate more speakers during the time left.

The interesting way of organizing who would speak and when, began when the moderator asked everyone who wanted to speak to raise their hand. Then a sheet of paper was put into your hand with a number, in print, written on it. The papers were numbered 1 to (I believe) 28, but it could have been 30, I am not sure. The first time they did this I wasn’t one of the participants with a number.

After the break, they finished with the speakers assigned in that first hand-out of numbers. They then gave out 11 more numbers.

I raised my hand and I was given #8, which was the third from last to speak.

No matter what goes into the act, and I must say I didn’t learn of anything new that I didn’t all ready know of, but how it is enforced and I would say how the public views the act is key. If it is seen as a dirty word type thing that is not supported by those without disabilities, it won’t be popular for government to make forcible.

The time for speaking was adequate, since to sit for 3 hours, with one half hour break is a little tough to do. I would say we had fair opportunity to give our feedback and that even if someone did not get the opportunity to speak, those who did were respectful and used their time well.

People who were deaf spoke most often, but they had the numbers present as well. They have their act together.

The minister of sport and disability attended briefly. I felt this was a positive meeting and I am pleased I chose to attend.

From Manitoba

6. Do you want even more evidence of the need for and the importance of The Accessibility for Manitobans Act?

Then how about the fact that disability discrimination has been the No. 1 reason for human rights complaints in Manitoba for 15 consecutive years. And it has not even been close. Based on the Manitoba Human Rights Commission’s most recent Annual Report, disability discrimination accounted for over 45% of all complaints filed in 2015. That is more complaints than for almost all the other 12 protected grounds combined.

Click here for more information. We were pleased that the Metro covered this important but almost entirely overlooked story. Read the Metro coverage at:

Release of Initial Proposal for the Accessible Employment Standard

The Accessibility Advisory Council (AAC) has just released the “Discussion Paper on a Proposed Accessibility Standard for Employment” (attached). This discussion paper sets out the AAC’s proposal for an accessibility standard to address the myriad of barriers to equitable employment opportunities and outcomes faced by Manitobans with disabilities.

This is the second of five accessibility standards that the government has committed to develop under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA). The first of the standards, the Customer Service Standard, came into force in November 2015.

As required under the AMA, the discussion paper has been released to invite and secure comment and feedback from stakeholder groups and the general public on the proposed standard. The deadline for public comment is February 15, 2017. Based on the feedback received, the AAC will recommend changes and improvements to Minister Scott Fielding by March 31, 2017.

The AAC has also scheduled a single date for in-person consultations on the proposed standard to be held in Winnipeg on January 18, 2017.
1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Main Floor, Royal ABC Ballroom
Viscount Gort Hotel

We’re hoping for a packed house (information on registration will be made available closer to the date).

As in the past, Barrier-Free Manitoba (BFM) will be supporting the community participation in the consultation process. This will include sharing a preliminary brief that reviews the proposed standard’s strengths and weaknesses, and identifies key areas where it needs to be strengthened.

We will be sending our preliminary brief to you on or before Friday, January 7, 2017 and looking forward to your feedback.

What better way to start the New Year than by helping ensure equitable employment for Manitobans with disabilities!

First AMA Compliance Dates

The first deadlines for action under the AMA have finally arrived. Beyond its statutory responsibilities set out in the Act, the provincial government is expected to demonstrate robust leadership in ensuring its own operational compliance with the act’s requirements.

The very first deadline was November 1, 2016. This is when the provincial government and its departments were required to:

  • Have developed policies that ensure accessible customer service and make these policies available on request.
  • Have trained or ensured that all staff that provide public services are trained in The Manitoba Human Rights Code and accessible customer service.
  • Ensure that all public meetings are accessible to persons with disabilities.

The second deadline, December 31, 2016, relates to multi-year accessibility plans. By then, all provincial government departments, crown corps, health authorities, colleges, universities, school divisions and many large municipalities are required to have developed comprehensive plans on what measures that they have taken and will take in the coming years to identify, prevent and remove barriers that disable people. These plans must have been developed in consultation with Manitobans with disabilities.

Click here for more info on the compliance requirements and deadlines.

Barrier-Free Manitoba has requested information from Minister Scott Fielding on the measures the government has taken and will be taking to comply with these deadlines. Follow up discussions are also currently underway with Donna Miller, Clerk of the Executive Council and Cabinet Secretary.

We hope to have more information to share with you shortly.

Federal Consultations

This last summer, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, announced the launch of a national consultation process to inform the development of planned legislation that will “transform how the Government of Canada addresses accessibility”. The consultation process includes in-person sessions in 18 different major urban centres across the country, running from September 22, 2016 to February 8, 2017.

The session in Winnipeg was held on October 3, 2016. Despite very short notice, an estimated 400 persons were able to attend the session (the largest number to that date). Barrier-Free Manitoba is pleased to have contributed to community dialogue in advance of the session and to have participated at the event.

We believe that Minister Qualtrough is committed to addressing disability rights in Canada. Let’s hope that they listened to what we had to say.

We encourage all who were unable to attend and/or have more they want to say to complete the online survey posted at:

Little if any information is available on the government’s next steps. We look forward to sharing updates on important developments as we are appraised of them.

We also encourage you to visit the Barrier-Free Canada website

Barrier-Free Canada is one of the leading national organizations advocating for strong and effective federal legislation. Barrier-Free Manitoba is its provincial affiliate.

Question for consideration

Do you think that the enactment of a Canadians with disabilities Act could help to make our Federal Court system more accessible to those who are blind and vision impaired? At the present time, blind and vision impaired need to obtain permission from a Federal Judge if they wish to file documents electronically.

Tell us what you think. Tweet your response and post it on Facebook. Write to us at

Next steps

BFC-CSB plans to continue on its present course. That is, to keep on encouraging people to attend public hearings in their areas and you can visit to check out the times for your area.

We at Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières are delighted to share 2 very important documents which are designed to help you become more involved in Minister Qualtrough’s public engagement hearings.

Please visit

Contact info

We would love to hear from you; via email, via twitter, via Facebook.

To contact us, please send an email to

To keep abreast of our updates visit

Visit us at and sign up to be a yes supporter or use the form provided to write to us with your organization’s letter of support.

Follow us on Twitter @barrierfreeca

And like us on Facebook at


Donna J. Jodhan founder and chair

Steering committee members

Our Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières steering committee includes: David Lepofsky, Jutta Treviranus, Brent Page, Marc Workman, Chris O’Brien, Robin East, Brad Saunders, and Diane Bergeron.

Founding organizations

Our five initial founding organizations are: CNIB, March of Dimes, the MS Society of Canada, the Canadian Hearing Society, and Accessible Media Inc. A list of our supporting organizations is listed below.

Supporting organizations

  • The Low Vision Self-Help Association
  • West Island, Montreal Quebec
  • The Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – NL
  • Guide Dog Users of Canada (GDUC)
  • Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)
  • Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)
  • SPH Planning & Consulting Limited
  • The Rick Hansen Foundation
  • Quebec Federation of the blind
  • Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
  • Community Living Toronto
  • Deaf Blind Ontario Services
  • Unifor
  • StopGap Foundation
  • Citizens with Disabilities Ontario
  • Spinal Cord Injury Alberta
  • Easter seals canada
  • Access for Sight-Impaired consumers
  • Every Canadian Counts Coalition
  • Québec Accessible
  • Centre for Equitable Library Access / Centre d’accès équitable aux bibliothèques
  • Deaf & Hear Alberta
  • Autism Canada
  • Mayor of Halifax Novascotia
  • Braille Literacy Canada

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