Wednesday May 8, 2019
Senator Petitclerc moved the adoption of the report on Bill C-81 with amendments and observations from the SOCI Committee. She said that the Committee heard from 20 witnesses and received more than 70 emails over their 4 meetings to study the bill. Based on the testimony, she said the Committee made 11 amendments and 2 observations to strengthen the legislation.
Senator Petitclerc said the two observations made to the federal government are applied to the report. The observations encourage the government to ensure that no public money is used to create or perpetuate disability related barriers. The observations also encourage the government to create standardized training to ensure all Canadians can expect the same level of access across government services.
She said the Senate’s legal counsel noticed a technical error in the French version of the legislation. She asked that the motion in the amendment be adopted. The Senators agreed.
Senator Seidman also rose to speak about Bill C-81. She said the Committee heard from virtually all witnesses that the legislation needed to pass urgently. She said there was also a desire to improve the legislation. Because of consistent testimony about the lack of timelines in the legislation, the Committee supported an end date of January 1, 2040.
Senator Munson motioned to have the third reading on the next sitting day of the Senate.
Monday May 13, 2019
Senator Munson moved the third reading of Bill C-81, as amended. He thanked all persons with disabilities, stakeholders and organizations who play a role in accessibility in Canada. He said bill C-81 will shift responsibility onto the system and away from individuals facing barriers in their daily lives. Senator Munson quoted Diane Bergeron during her testimony:
“Having a disability is exhausting, and I do not say that lightly. But when you have to deal with discrimination, rights violations, different pieces of legislation, criticisms, people not thinking that you have value, it makes it worse. The current system is unfair and unacceptable.”
He said Bergeron’s testimony made him realize that everyone will face barriers to full participation at some point, and this legislation will affect everyone in a positive way. However, he said he recognized the legislation does not satisfy everyone, but that’s what happens when you build something Canada has never had before.
Senator Ngo, the opposition critic of Bill C-81, stood to express his full support of the bill. He said it marks a new beginning by proactively addressing accessibility.
Senator Deacon said when she arrived in the Senate 15 months ago, she assumed there was already a national accessibility strategy because of her own work in Ontario 14 years ago. She said 2019 is too late to be mandating accessibility at the federal level, which is why this legislation is so important. Senator Deacon said while no legislation is perfect, Bill C-81 is a solid foundation.
Senator Martin acknowledged the work of former Senator Asha Seth in designating May as National Vision Health Month. She said that motion was adopted unanimously in the Senate.
Senator Dean said the recognition of communication in the legislation is critically important, as communication includes the half a million Canadians who have speech and language disabilities that are not caused by hearing loss – for example, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, or learning disabilities.
The bill, as amended, was read the third time and passed with unanimous support.
Photo Alt: Photo of the indoor Senate of Canada at the Canadian Parliament. All seats are empty and awaiting arrivals.