Bill C-81 Legislative Debate Summary

September 19, 2018

Yesterday, Wednesday September 19, 2018, Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act was debated for the first time in the House of Commons.

Minister Carla Qualtrough opened the debate by reflecting on her own experiences as a woman with sight loss. Minister Qualtrough explained key provisions of the Bill including the creation of a new accessible standards organization and the positive economic impact of the legislation. Minister Qualtrough finished her speech, highlighting the need of further accessibility legislation across the country, hoping that Bill C-81 will push provinces to develop their own.

During debate several Liberal, Conservative and NDP Members of Parliament spoke in favour or questioned key aspects of the legislation. Conservative MPs were mainly concerned about the timeline to implement legislation, noting that the consultative efforts were long. Several Conservative MPs pointed to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, moving the creation of the RDSP through the house in 90 days after the 2008 election, as an example of moving policies affecting persons with disabilities, quickly. The Conservative critic for Accessibility, MP Alex Nuttal (Barrier-Springwater-Oro-Medonte), asked what tangible effects Canadians would see right away, and where the earmarked $290 million would be spent. Mr. Nuttall also expressed concerns over standards and regulations, specifically looking for answers about how the government will prepare the private sector for this change and what the potential costs would be to the private sector.

The NDP Critic for Persons with Disabilities, MP Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor-Tecumseh), spoke in support of getting the bill to committee as soon as possible to make substantial amendments as possible. MP Hardcastle believes that amendments are necessary but commended the government for tabling it. Specifically, she agreed with providing a disability lens for all legislation and policies put forward by the government. She said she will urge the committee to hold its meetings in difference places across the country.

The Liberal MPs echoed the Minister’s comments that the government is taking their time with this legislation to get it right, consult as many stakeholders as possible, and that the legislation will ultimately inspire a cultural shift. Both Conservative and New Democrat MPs expressed concern about the powers to exempt in the Bill, particularly allowing cabinet to decide on exemptions and calling for timelines.

Of interest to CNIB, during debate Conservative MP John Nater (Perth-Wellington) mentioned the work of CNIB during the Procedure and House Affairs study of the creation of an independent commission or commissioner. Specifically, MP Nater spoke to CNIB’s testimony advocating for accessible leadership debates during federal elections. While not directly related to this legislation, it is one example of CNIB’s impact on Parliament Hill.

The Bill will receiving further debate before going to Committee. CNIB anticipates and will advocate to appear before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities. CNIB’s testimony will be guided by the current survey asking Canadians with sight loss for input on the legislation. The survey has been shared to over 5,000 advocates, CNIB’s Executive Director’s and Advocacy Leads which were asked to share with clients and advocates, as well as on CNIB’s social media.

The link to the English survey can be found here:

The link to the French survey can be found here:

If you have any further questions about Bill C-81, please don’t hesitate to ask.


September 24, 2018

On Monday September 24, Bill C-81 was debated for the second time.

Many MPs continued to raise their concern that the bill lacks timelines, meaning it could be a long time before we see any changes on the ground. Many opposition MPs asked Liberal members if they would be open to additions or amendments to the Bill when it goes to Committee. MPs from all parties mentioned David Lepofsky, with several quoting him saying the bill is a good starting point but requires substantial additions and improvements to be effective, including a deadline to reach full accessibility.

Conservative MPs were mainly concerned that this bill will build bureaucracy, and several wondered where the $290 million would be spent over six years with no measurement tools indicated. Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant mentioned CNIB as an example of an organization already working to enable accessibility. She also stated she believes this bill is building bureaucracy.

Elizabeth May of the Green Party also rose to comment on the Bill. She wants to see amendments that make it mandatory for cabinet to always appoint a minister responsible for this Act. Additionally, she questioned why the Bill uses “may” instead of “must”. This was echoed by NDP MP’s, who say one major gap is allowing new standards organizations to decide instead of enforce. NDP MP Rachel Blaney noted it would give public agencies too much power to grant exemptions, and that enforcement and implementation is split over four agencies instead of having a one-stop shop.

Liberal MP Arif Virani noted that Bill C-81 would expand the existing opportunities fund for persons with disabilities to improve matching services that connect employers and persons with disabilities.

Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility)) was in the House for the debate. She said that the government is aware that accessibility will not happen overnight. She cited the economic benefit of improving accessibility I businesses and noted that the government must lead the way for accessibility in Canada. Ms. Young noted that her twin grandsons were born prematurely, both require glasses, and that they are worried one of them may be legally blind and may require accommodations in school.

MPs from all parties expressed willingness to debate this Bill in Committee and work to provide amendments to strengthen the legislation.


October 2, 2018

Please find a summary of the Parliamentary Committee study on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. Thank you for Alice Clark, Specialist, Government Relations and Advocacy, for monitoring and reporting on this meeting.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and Status of Person with Disabilities (HUMA) Committee Meeting October 2, 2018
Time: 8:45am – 10:45am

Minister Carla Qualtrough appeared before the HUMA committee to kick off the study of Bill C-81. She used the accessibility of ATMs as an example of where Bill C-81 could take the burden off the disability community. Currently, if an ATM isn’t accessible a human rights complaint would need to be filed and would only apply to the one ATM in question. Under Bill C-81, it would fall to the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO) to create new standards that would apply to all federally regulated banks.

Minister Qualtrough also spoke about exemptions that will be done on a case by case basis and will be published publicly in the Canada Gazette. A “no wrong door” approach will be taken to ensure collaboration across sectors. Minister Qualtrough noted that the Bill proposes a strong framework that will allow for technical standards moving forward – she said it is not very helpful, to have a very prescriptive law, as thinking and expectations evolve.

When asked about timelines, Minister Qualtrough said it is difficult to predict how long it will take to establish full accessibility, and setting a future timeline allows people to sit back and wait because they have the time. She said, for example, in the Criminal Code, Canada doesn’t prescribe a date for a crime-free Canada.  

A number of Conservative MPs asked for a cost analysis. Minister Qualtrough said we only know the cost of not doing anything, and she suggested that we should not set a threshold beyond which this would cost too much. Fines for public sector agencies who do not comply with regulations will go towards general revenue. Alex Nuttall, Conservative MP Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, asked if money could go into opportunities fund, or something that will help to further reduce barriers. Cheryl Hardcastle, NPD MP Windsor-Tecumseh, noted that nothing is required or mandatory in the bill. She wants to see some requirements made in the Bill to set clear timelines within the standards.

Future summaries will be sent after the completion of ongoing committee study meetings. Please feel free to share with your connections.


October 4, 2018

Please find a summary of the Parliamentary Committee study on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. Thank you for Alice Clark, Specialist, Government Relations and Advocacy, for monitoring and reporting on this meeting.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and Status of Person with Disabilities (HUMA)

Committee Meeting October 4, 2018
8:45am – 10:45am

Witnesses included representatives from Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), and Canada Post Corporation.

CHRC recommended a specific change in wording to section 117.1 that would change the word “may” to “shall” and add “which may include” to the end of the paragraph. They also proposed 117.1 c. add the words “and timelines for their implementation” to the end of the sentence. Their proposed wording would read:


117 (1) Subject to sections 118 to 120, the Governor in Council shall make regulations which may include:

(c) establishing standards intended to remove barriers and to improve accessibility in the areas referred to in section 5 and timelines for their implementation;

Conservative MP John Barlow (Foothills, AB) questioned how adding new layers of bureaucracy would help remove barriers, noting that more bureaucracy does not always help. Yazmine Laroche, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, Treasury Board Secretariat, said, “I am not another layer of bureaucracy.” She noted that her new task team will serve to connect the dots and coordinate the efforts of the public service to collaborate on policies and practices and provide harmonized oversight. Marcella Daye from CHRC said it may appear as bureaucracy, but the agencies will lean on each other for various roles. She also noted that Bill C-81 provides authorities and requirements for public sector agencies to work together to ensure complaints find their way without confusion and barriers at the front end – echoing the “no wrong door” approach the Minister spoke of on Tuesday.

Liberal MP Wayne Long (Saint John—Rothesay, NB) said he believes the issue with timelines is that people will wait until the timelines are nearly up and said that technically they act as a deterrent. Marcella Daye responded that timelines are a concern for people who want change fast, and for regulated bodies who want to make impactful change in a timely manner. She suggested that part of progressive realization is that timelines will always be changing – but there should be timelines to put regulations in place. Yazmine Laroche noted that TBS is not waiting for C-81 to receive royal assent – they’re moving ahead with accessibility measures now.

Conservative MP Rosemary Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK) questioned how the newly proposed Accessibility Commissioner is different than the current Human Rights Commissioner. She also noted that the Accessibility Commissioner will have the ability to enter a place to check compliance and questioned whether there is a risk that this power could infringe on Charter Rights. Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner, said the Accessibility Commissioner will have a specific mandate to audit and receive complaints regarding accessibility, and noted that the Human Rights Commissioner has a broader mandate. Marcella Daye noted that the Accessibility Commissioner would be more like an auditor – making an appointment, being guided, and gathering information. She said it would operate less like a SWAT team, and more like an inspector.

MP Falk also asked about the impact on rural communities, specifically small local businesses that are authorized dealers for Canada Post. She said she is concerned they will have to shoulder the costs associated with compliance. Jessica L. McDonald, Chair of the Board of Directors and Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of Canada Post Corporation, said the contracts with Canada Post outlets already specify that facilities must comply with legislation. She said they do not have a cost analysis yet, but that Canada Post is working on assessing all of their physical infrastructure – from outlets, to transportation and internal locations. Ms. McDonald also noted that as one of Canada’s largest employers, Canada Post Corp. has a lot of discovery ahead regarding how they can best accommodate their employees but will act within the spirit and intent of the Bill.

Other questions from Members centred around board composition for CASDO, and the application of Bill C-81 to Indigenous communities.

Future summaries will be sent after the completion of ongoing committee study meetings. Please share with those who may be interested.


October 18, 2018

Please find a summary of the Parliamentary Committee study on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. Thank you for Alice Clark, Specialist, Government Relations and Advocacy, for monitoring and reporting on this meeting.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and Status of Person with Disabilities (HUMA)

Committee Meeting October 18, 2018
8:45am – 10:45am

Witnesses included:


As individuals: Michael Prince, Professor of Social Policy, Faculty of Human and Social Development, University of Victoria and Jutta Treviranus, Professor and Director, Inclusive Design Research Centre, OCAD University

Barrier-Free Canada: Donna Jodhan, Founder and Chair

People First of Canada: Kory Earle, President and Shelley Fletcher, Executive Director

Public Service Alliance of Canada: Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies Region and Seema Lamba, Human Rights Program Officer, Negotiations and Programs Branch

Donna Jodhan, Founder and Chair of Barrier Free Canada, said that she want to see Bill C-81 extend to organizations who receive government funding, grants and contributions, or those who provide goods and services. She stressed that progressive realization doesn’t provide a meterstick against which progress can be measured, and there is no mention in the legislation of applying a disability lens to future policy and legislating.

Michael Prince, Professor of Social Policy, Faculty of Human and Social Development at the University of Victoria, also mentioned the absence of measurable targets with timelines. Mr. Prince suggested that there are too many possibilities for exemptions, and a complex model of federal bodies involved in enforcement. He recommended that the scope of the bill extend to non-federally regulated employers and government contractors. He also recommended two amendments to the legislative wording (will be available on Handard early next week.)

Kory Earle, President of People First Canada, advocated that information be available in accessible, plain language. Shelley Fletcher, Executive Director of People First Canada, said all complaints and enforcement should be handled by the accessibility commissioner, and that the complaints process should be streamlined to go through the accessibility commissioner.

Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President, Praries Region, at the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), said that the Employment Equity Act provides an established framework that employers and unions have been working under for years. PSAC recommends improving the Employment Equity Act and then referring the employment aspects of C-81 to the Employment Equity Act. Ms. Hladun said the Employment Equity Act is specific in what must be included in employment equity plans, whereas Bill C-81 is not. She also said that PSAC wants to see adequate funding provided to CASDO and the CHRC to ensure these organizations can fulfill their new mandates.

MP John Barlow asked Ms. Jodhan what she would like to see for specific deadlines and timelines. She said she’d like to see a timeline for the first two years whereby we can judge what has gone on and what needs to be put in place still. Mr. Prince said the concept of progressive realization is a guiding principle that reflects international best practice, but it would be best to include an aspirational statement like Ontario did.

Mr. Prince said this Bill is a machinery of government bill, but not much of a social policy bill. He said it is Ottawa-centred and not person-centred – almost every federal department can apply for an exemption, but federally regulated private entities don’t have as many options for exemptions.

MP Wayne Long noted that the committee has heard that Canadians with disabilities want to see a majority of CASDO comprised of persons with disabilities. He asked Ms. Johan what this majority should look like. She said the appointments should be made so persons with disabilities have a voice at the table with a direct stake in the outcomes, so they won’t be as influenced by other sources. Mr. Prince said the Chair or Vice Chair should be designated or rotate so they always have a person with a disability in a leadership role. He said they should not comprise the board based on a minimum number, but by identifying key roles.

MP Geordie Hogg asked the witnesses if there are any examples of international legislation that could help inform their study. Mr. Prince said Canada will be catching up to Australia, the U.S, the U.K, Ireland and other European countries.

MP Kerry Diotte asked for some specific examples of how this Bill fails persons with disabilities. Mr. Prince said that the Bill could be strengthened by investing in services, labour market agreements, tax measures that would create incentives, etc. He said the successes will be in the larger context of investments in other policies.

MP Wayne Long asked if there should be a cost limit to creating an Accessible Canada. Kory Earle said we should not focus on the cost, but rather on people being included every day and in the economy. Shelley Fletcher also noted the economic benefits of hiring persons with disabilities. Seema Lamba said the attitudinal barrier that hiring persons with disabilities will cost a lot and noted that the average cost is $500 to accommodate.

MP Rosemarie Falk said the government used a GBA+ lens on their last budget, but that she appreciated Mr. Earle’s comments that legislation should include also a disability lens. She asked what government departments could do now. Ms. Johan said she was aware that many government websites were not accessible, and seeing the government lead by creating accessible websites would be a good place to start. She also said that cost matter for creating other policies was not brought up as much as it is on this legislation.

Please share with those who may be interested.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or Alice Clark.


October 22, 23, 2018

Please find a summary of the Parliamentary Committee study on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. Thank you to Alice Clark, Specialist, Government Relations and Policy, for monitoring and reporting on these meetings.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)
Committee Meeting October 22, 2018

6:00pm – 8:00pm

Witnesses included:

Canadian Transportation Agency: Scott Streiner, Chair and Chief Executive Officer
Vancouver Airport Authority: Craig Richmond, President and Chief Executive Officer
VIA Rail Canada Inc.: Yves Desjardins-Sicillano, President and Chief Executive Officer and John-Nicolas Morello, Senior Legal Counsel, Legal and Corporate Affairs

Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association: Robert W.J. Ghiz, President and Chief Executive Officer and Ursula Grom, Senior Director, Industry Affairs
Communication Disabilities Access Canada: Barbara Collier, Executive Director
Council of Canadians with Disabilities: Jewelles Smith, Chairperson  and Steven Estey, Government and Community Relations Officer

Craig Richmond from Vancouver Airport Authority started by noting that airports operate as not for profit organizations and do not receive federal money. He said additional feedback and reporting requirements will lead to a considerable burden on small airports, which would be better off spending money to tackle barriers than writing reports. Scott Streiner from the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) said that ensuring Canadians with disabilities can travel independently and with dignity is within CTA’s DNA. He said the CTA is working towards coherent, well aligned approaches to this mandate with other federal agencies. Yves Desjardins-Sicillano of VIA Rail said VIA is currently working to retrofit the Ottawa station and is working to devise a way for people with sight loss disabilities to find their way from the front door to their train seat independently.

Jewelles Smith from Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) said they wanted to see challenging timelines in the legislation; as Canada is not the first country to put accessibility in legislation, Ms. Smith said the government can easily meet a 5 year timeline. She said CCD would also like to see the act better address effective management and complaints because fractured management makes it difficult for Canadians with disabilities to have their needs met. CCD is also advocating for ASL and LSQ to be acknowledged as official languages for deaf individuals, for a CASDO makeup of 2/3 persons with disabilities, for federally regulated entities to be arms length from government, and for Indigenous peoples with disabilities to be consulted. Robert Ghiz from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) said it was difficult to provide feedback without a more detailed sense of the regulations that would follow. He urged for continued consultation after the bill is passed. Barbara Collier of Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) said they want to see the bill amended to include communication as a building block that needs to be put in place at all jurisdictions.

MP Diane Finley (Haldimand-Norfolk, ON) said that there are dramatic differences in accessibility across airports. She asked if Bill C-81 would change this, and if so, how. Mr. Streiner said the CTA is working on new accessible transportation regulations that will include a section of provisions for airports to ensure more consistent service delivery. Ms. Finley also asked what the financial impact of this unfunded mandate will be on smaller airports. Craig Richmond said whatever the government could do to make reporting requirements as reasonable as possible would go a long way.

MP Hogg asked what areas Canada is falling behind in, and what impact this Bill will have on these areas. Mr. Streiner said the CTA targets efforts where the risk or impact of non-compliance is the highest, and that C-81 would give compliance enforcement officers additional tools to ensure compliance.

MP Hardcastle (Windsor-Tecumseh, ON) said that there are no requirement or timelines in the bill, and that the CTA is exempt and do not have to offer a rationalization for their decision. She also said that there is no appeals process for the disability community. She asked Mr. Streiner if this needed to change before the passage of C-81. He said they have a current exemption power that they’ve never used. Mr. Richmond said that if an airport is falling short on accessibility, the bill needs to allow an opportunity for the airport to voluntarily fix what’s wrong.

MP Falk (Battlefords-Lloydminster, SK) asked how stakeholders are looking to have plain language put into the legislation. Ms. Collier said that if communication is added as a building block, then a standard could follow outlining the principles of easy read or plain language.

MP Long asked about the composition of the CASDO board, referencing an earlier conversation with Ms. Smith where she advocated for 100% persons with disability on CASDO. Ms. Smith said people with disabilities exist everywhere and that if the composition is only 50%, there may not be enough perspective of different disability issues. She said CCD and other disability organizations are advocating for 2/3 composition.

MP Hardcastle asked Mr. Estey and Ms. Smith about the operational independence of organizations like CASDO, and they both agreed that they would be better suited to report to parliament, and exist arms length from government.

MPs Ruimy, Young, and Finley all asked questions about timelines. MP Ruimy said the scope of the legislation is so enormous that to legislate every piece wouldn’t get Canada where it needs to go. MP Finley said there is so much flexibility in the bill as it is written that it will never come into force. She said the good intentions won’t take the legislation anywhere. Mr. Estey said the first reading of the Nova Scotia Accessibility legislation did not contain timelines either. He said timelines are essential to ensure there is a backstop against which we can measure.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)
Committee Meeting October 24, 2018


Witnesses included:

Canadian Bankers Association: Marina Mandal, Assistant General Counsel and Tasmin Waley, Senior Legal Counsel
Canadian Disability Policy Alliance: Mary Ann McColl, Professor, Queen’s University
Royal Bank of Canada: Teri Monti, Vice President, Employee Relations

Accessible Media Inc.: David Errington, President and Chief Executive Officer
ARCH Disability Law Centre: Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director and Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission: Scott Shortliffe, Chief Consumer Officer and Executive Director, Mary-Louise Hayward, Manager, Social and Consumer Policy and Adam Balkovec, Legal Counsel

The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) started the discussion by agreeing that Bill C-81 is good for business. They stated that the legislation needs to strike the right balance between principles based and prescriptive and noted that CBA is continually working on the design of products and services. Mary Ann McColl of the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance (CDPA) focused on the need for a disability lens to be applied to all future legislation. She said any disability lens would need to be easily understood, assume no prior knowledge of disability, and be evidence based. Ms. McColl was representing a tool that was developed by CDPA that asked users to state their assumptions and then examine them. It also looks at the definition of disability within legislation, and considers who determines who is eligible to be considered for each piece of legislation (ie CPP, disability tax credit, etc.). She gave a copy of the tool to each committee member. Teri Monti from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) noted that RBC has enterprise accessibility guidelines that are aligned with global accessibility practices. She also said RBC branches have verbal way finding inside. ARCH Disability Law Centre (ARCH) said they want to see exemptions limited so the Bill sends a strong message that accessibility is everyone’s responsibility. They recommended the minister and regulated entities provide benchmarks for a Canada without barriers and provide specific and progressive timelines. They also want to see one central agency to oversee compliance and adjudicate complaints.

MP John Barlow (Foothills, AB) said the legislation contained a two-tier system where there is a large number of exemptions available for government departments, but federally regulated private sector groups aren’t able to access the same exemptions. He asked if there should be an even playing field for exemptions. Ms. McColl said she would expect the same standard across the board, but noted that the mechanism to ensure that standard might be different in government. The CBA echoed this, saying that the focus needed to be on the intended outcome. They said the government has displayed a commitment to that outcome and that there should be a level playing field from an outcomes based perspective, but there might be different ways of getting there.

MP Long told a story of a constituent saying her world had been opened up by a specific accommodation measure, and he asked if taking action to enhance accessibility is more than just an investment. Ms. McColl said most people who have made accommodations are surprised at how small the costs are, and noted that the cost to retrofit is much more significant. RBC echoed this, saying a lot of accommodation costs nothing.

MP Hogg asked what we might learn from other jurisdictions who have implemented similar legislation. Ms. McColl said that our natural comparators, the United States and the United Kingdom, have gone an anti-discrimination route, and she’s pleased that Canada went an access and inclusion route instead. She said Ontario stands out as having tackled society wide standards.

MP Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords-Lloydminster, SK) asked ARCH if they had suggestions for timelines or benchmarks. Kerri Joffe said ARCH supports calls from other disability organizations that there should be timelines attached to Section 5 of the Bill. She said that we need to insert benchmarks and timelines within the development of the standard process to ensure we reach markers for progressive realization. She said as it is written, there is nothing required when the Bill receives Royal Assent. MP Falk also asked what would happen if an individual brought a complaint to the wrong regulated body. Ms. Joffe said we do not yet know how that would roll out in each agency, in the absence of regulations.

MP Robert Morrissey (Egmont, PE) asked if the goal should be to always try to achieve more accessibility or to achieve a static accessibility goal. Robert Lattanzio said ARCH does not see having timelines as accepting a static accessibility goal. He said that ARCH sees timelines as a way to move forward.

MP Long commented on the “no wrong door” approach taken by this legislation. He asked if this wasn’t a step in the right direction. Ms. Joffe said that when you have an overly complex system, it is best to remedy the system instead of creating a band aid solution. Scott Shortliffe said the CRTC is forming working groups to make sure that they process complaints that come to them even if they come to the wrong door.

Please share with those who may be interested

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or Alice Clark.


October 24, 25, 2018

Please find a summary of the Parliamentary Committee study on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. Thank you to Alice Clark, Specialist, Government Relations and Policy, for monitoring and reporting on these meetings.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

Committee Meeting October 24, 2018

6:45pm – 8:45pm

Witnesses included:

As an Individual: Marie Bountrogianni, Dean, Chang School, Ryerson University
Barrier-Free Manitoba: Patrick Falconer, Consultant, Steering Committee
British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society: Neil Belanger, Executive Director
Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec:
Monique Beaudoin, Administrator, Board of Directors and Camille Desforges, Records Manager
Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance:
Bill Adair, Executive Director and Jane Arkell, Project Director

Marie Bountrogianni told the Committee that the highlight of her tenure as an Ontario cabinet minister was in June 2005 when the AODA received royal assent. She said a clear deadline, regulations established to enforce the law, and public education would be key to the success of the bill. She said she wanted to see greater emphasis on web accessibility to facilitate equal access to opportunities. She briefly mentioned the CNIB for their partnership in two entrepreneur courses for people with vision loss at the Change School at Ryerson. She said this type of partnership and collaboration are critical for realizing a barrier free Canada.

Patrick Falconer from Barrier-Free Manitoba said Manitoba is halfway through the 10 year mandate of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, and only 1 of 5 accessibility standards have been developed. He said the Manitoba government rarely meets its own deadlines, and that implementation efforts are under resourced and behind schedule. He said Bill C-81 contains permissive language, and enables but doesn’t require any action.

Neil Belanger from the British Colombia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society said he wanted to see a 5 year timeline for implementation. He said CASDO should be composed with a minimum 2/3 representation of persons with disabilities, including indigenous peoples with disabilities. He said there is an absence of any reference to First Nations communities under the legislation, and wants clarity as to how Bill C-81 will impact First Nations Communities.

Camille Desforges from the Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec said they want to see disability needs looked at with all future policies, and that the federal government should leverage funding that supports public and private agencies by having an accessibility criteria attached to all transfers.

Bill Adair, representing FALA, said all people employed by the public sector must engage in an education program, and that the legislation should be expanded to include landed immigrants and other who do not hold Canadian citizenship. He also added that he wanted to see all standards and regulations implemented within 5 years, and that communications needs to be added to the list of targeted barriers.

MP Barlow asked why the groups had suggested 5 year timelines. Mr. Falconer said the experience in Manitoba is that the government has dragged its feet, and said the longer it goes on, the less likely it is that the legislation will be taken seriously.

MP Hardcastle asked if the legislation should stipulate staff and other supporting roles surrounding the board be designated persons with disabilities. Ms. Desforges said the board and committees have to be comprised by persons with disabilities with protected positions for Quebec.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

Committee Meeting October 25, 2018

8:00am – 10:00am

Witnesses included:

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance: David Lepofsky, Chair, Faith Cameletti, Student, Osgoode Hall Law School and Connor Campbell, Student, Osgoode Hall Law School

Canadian Hard of Hearing Association: Christopher Sutton, National Executive Director

CNIB Foundation: Angela Bonfanti, Vice-President, Ontario and Quebec and Robbi Weldon, Program Lead, Peer Support and Leisure

Canadian Association of the Deaf: Frank Folino, President and James Roots, Executive Director

Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission: David Arnot, Chief Commissioner

David Lepofsky, from the AODA Act Alliance, said Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions but weak on enforcement. He urged the members of the committee not to think of the political expediency of today in their review of the Bill. He said the bill splinters the creation of standards across four agencies, creating a formula for a weak bill, confusion, and delay. He said the government’s response of a “no wrong door” policy does not solve the substantial problem once you are inside the door. He also said that to ensure this law makes a difference on day one, the government must ensure that wherever federal money is spent, it can’t be used to create new barriers.

Christopher Sutton from the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association said the bill needs timelines and additional funds provided to organizations who service persons with disabilities. He said the public sector agencies under the proposed legislation should lead with an example of a culture of inclusion and equality.

Angela Bonfanti from CNIB Foundation said there is fear amongst Canadians with sight loss that a splintering effect will make enforcement of this legislation more onerous for Canadians with disabilities She said CNIB urges the government to broaden the scope of Bill C-81 by mandating the government to procure accessible materials, technologies, and services. She said all future policies and legislation need to be viewed with a disability lens.

Frank Folino from the Canadian Association of the Deaf said he wanted to see the bill recognize ASL and LSQ as official languages of deaf people in Canada. He said he wanted to see timelines up to 5 years for development and implementation, and that communication should be added as a barrier. He also called for a single point of access to oversee complaints, financial support available to assist complainants with legal fees, and minimum representation of 2/3 persons with disabilities on CASDO.

David Arnot said there is a strong business case for greater accessibility, and a demographic urgency for it. He said the Bill needed a consistent rubric for evaluating accessibility.

MP Finley asked Mr. Lepofksy about the two-tier exemption system that currently allows public agencies easier access to exemptions than the regulated private sector. Mr. Lepofsky said it is not a one size fits all rule, where timelines will vary depending on the size and scope of the agency. He said there are no good accessibility standards in Canada from which the committee can draw.

MP Hardcastle asked who should be overseeing enforcement of standards. Mr. Lepofsky said all enforcement should be done by the accessibility commissioner, and that accessibility commissioner should be report to the publicly accountable Cabinet.

MP Hogg asked about exemptions, and the criteria the witnesses would like to see for obtaining exemptions. Mr. Lepfosky said that the way it is written now, the government can give a carte blanche exemption. He said there should be tiny, narrow, and time limited appeals process with strict, narrow criteria. Ms. Bonfanti echoed that, saying exemptions that are granted need to be revisited because exemptions should not be granted forever.

MP Diotte asked for some examples of the challenges the witnesses face as persons with disabilities. Mr. Felino and Mr. Roots said sign language interpreting services aren’t readily available for things like job interviews, and that government departments are unaware that it is their duty to provide them. Mr. Roots described trouble voting in the municipal election last week because of a lack of awareness.

MP Long asked what the government could do to improve voting procedures for Canadians with disabilities. Mr. Arnot said there is no argument for undue hardship when it comes to voting, as Canadians with disabilities are trying to exercise a fundamental right.

MP long also asked about the makeup of CASDO. Mr. Fellino said the board would need a minimum of 2/3 persons with disabilities because often a 50% +1 model leads to persons with disabilities being further marginalized and pushed away, allowing non-disabled people to take over and outvote them.

Please share with staff you would be interested.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or Alice Clark.

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