The end of the year is a great opportunity to reflect on the work we’ve done, and look forward to what’s ahead. I wanted to start by saying thank you – I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished since we started down this path together in 2015.
Bill C-81 represents the perspectives that you generously shared with me over the past three years. It aims to proactively identify, remove and prevent new and existing barriers in a way that benefits all Canadians. Bill C-81 proposes two fundamental shifts in the way the Government of Canada and federally-regulated businesses operate. The first is recognizing that it is systems and policies that create barriers: the barrier does not lie with the individual or their disability. The second is shifting the burdensome responsibility of identifying and removing barriers from individuals to the system. This legislation is an equalizer of opportunities for persons with disabilities.
What we should never forget is that this historic bill would not have been possible without the work, commitment and contributions of you – the disability community – who for decades, have been tireless advocates for a more inclusive and accessible Canada. Your continued leadership and engagement have been, and continue to be, instrumental to the bill and to the creation of a truly accessible Canada. Together, we have set a new standard for what it means to be meaningfully consulted. This principle has been embedded in the legislation, ensuring that consultation continues, and persons with disabilities are, by law, empowered to design a future that is inclusive.
The Bill continues through the Parliamentary process, and after unanimous support in the House of Commons, Bill C-81 has been tabled in the Senate where debate will resume in the New Year. As I reflect on the process to date, I am grateful for the rigour and debate that has been applied to this legislation. This Act is seeking to address generations of exclusion. This debate has engaged the voices of thousands of Canadians on issues that have never before been the topic of critical national discourse.
Inevitably, there were differences of opinion and priorities varied. An important challenge function was played. Ideas were tested, and every perspective was taken into consideration. I am confident that the legislation is all the better for it. I am also confident that an overwhelming consensus remained unwavering throughout this process: that this is the opportunity of a lifetime to advance disability rights; to address the systemic barriers and inequity that continue to persist, and to insist on the full social and economic participation of everyone with a disability in this country.
There is much to celebrate as we wind down 2018. Besides the important work on the legislation, there have been many other milestones that we’ve been able to celebrate together, including:
- Recognizing the importance data plays in informing our policies and programs with the release of the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability results.
- The accession to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the Government of Canada and all the Provinces and Territories.
- Marking the first ever UN International Day of Sign Languages with the community on Parliament Hill.
- Confirmation of $290 Million in funding to support the Accessible Canada agenda when Bill C-81 was tabled in June.
As we lay the groundwork for an accessible future, continued collaboration with your partner organizations and our government will be an essential pillar to any success we see as a country. It is time we shift the conversation from “nothing about us without us” to “nothing about us,” because everything is about us. I hope that, together, we can ensure a more consistent experience of accessibility across the country.
Thank you again for all of your support and your unwavering commitment. I wish you and your families the very best for the holidays and look forward to what we will accomplish together in the New Year!
Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility