Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
AODA Alliance to Present to Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Thursday April 11, 2019 on the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – Here are the Specific Amendments We will Ask the Senate to Make to the Bill
April 8, 2019
The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs is holding sped-up public hearings on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. The AODA Alliance has been invited to make a presentation to the Standing Committee at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 11, 2019. You can come to watch the hearing live at this address:
Room W110, 1 Wellington St. Ottawa Ontario.
You can also watch the hearing live online at http://senparlvu.parl.gc.ca/XRender/en
The online video will be archived for future viewing, for those who watch it live. In the hearing room will be ASL and LSQ. The sign language will not be available on line for a few days.
We are working hard to get ready for these hearings on such short notice. However, we are not complaining. This is because these tight time lines will give the Senate enough time to amend Bill C-81 to strengthen it, if it is willing, and for the bill to return to the House of Commons for a debate and final vote on those amendments.
This strengthens the hand of the many, including the AODA Alliance, who are campaigning to get this weak bill strengthened. There is no need to avoid seeking amendments because the bill can’t get through Parliament before the fall election.
The public hearings are only taking place on April 10 and 11, and then on May 1. The Standing Committee will only have one meeting, on May 2, to undertake its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. It is at that May 2 meeting when amendments would be considered.
That means the Senate’s Standing Committee will have very little time to debate amendments. Our list of proposed amendments must be very very short. We have thus worked through the weekend to produce the following 4-page document, which we are now submitting to the Senate. It sets out the wording of the absolutely top-priority amendments we are requesting. We know that this list does not include many of the amendments we need. However, given the tight time lines, a longer list of amendments, coming from us, would actually work against our hope for success.
You will also see that this document sets out a series of recommended “observations.” The Senate can attach statements like these to a bill, calling for further action, whether or not it makes amendments to the bill.
We need your help more than ever. Please email the Senate Standing Committee to urge the senators to amend Bill C-81, as we are proposing. We appreciate the efforts of all of you who have already done so. For those who believe people with disabilities deserve a strong national accessibility law, this is the best way you can help us now. Write the Standing Committee at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit our website to learn all about the background to Bill C-81 and our efforts to get it strengthened.
If your organization is going to present to the Standing Committee or submit a brief, we invite you to support these amendments and any others that you consider important. As the following document notes, during the April 3, 2019 meeting of this Senate Standing Committee, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough made an important commitment. We plan to hold her and the Federal Government to it. Senator Munson, who is the sponsor of Bill C-81 in the Senate pointed out to her that there are calls from the disability community for this bill to be amended because it does not go far enough. He asked her if she was open to the bill being amended. Minister Qualtrough agreed that she was open to the bill being amended in the Senate. She said she wants this law to be the best it can be. We here take her up on that offer.
We are sorry that we are not now providing more detailed explanations for the following information. We are rushing to get this to you, to Senators, and others whom we need to reach.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Proposed Amendments to Bill C-81 Submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs
April 8, 2019
Speaking to the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee on April 3, 2019, Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said she would be open to amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, and that she wants to make this bill “the best it can possibly be.”
We offer this short list of vital amendments, given the Senate’s tight time lines. Had there been more time, a number of other important amendments would have been proposed.
A. Setting a Deadline to Achieve Accessibility
Section 5 of the Act should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it will provide:
“5 The purpose of this Act is to benefit all persons, especially persons with disabilities, through the realization, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, …”
The following section should be added to the bill:
5.2. Nothing in this Act, including in its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, should be construed as authorizing or requiring any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers as soon as reasonably possible.”
Section 11 should be amended to add the words on or before January 1, 2040, so that it would provide:
“11 (1) The Minister’s mandate is the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040”.
Section 18 should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it would provide in material part:
“18 The Standards Organization’s mandate is to contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, through, among other things,…”
B. Setting Mandatory Duties
The bill should be amended to add this subsection to section 117:
(1.2) The Governor in Council must make all the regulations under paragraphs 1(c) and (d) necessary to achieving the purposes of this Act, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, must make at least one regulation under paragraphs (1c) and (d) in each of the areas referred to in section 5 within the period of five years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force.
Section 2 definition of “barrier” should be amended to add the words “a law”, so that it will read in material part:
“barrier means anything — including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice — that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation. (obstacle)”
C. Ensuring the Bill Does Not Reduce Rights of People with Disabilities
Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:
“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”
Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.
Section 6 should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it:
“(2) For greater certainty, in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the provisions of that Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.”
The following provision should be added to the bill:
(1) The Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must within the period of six months that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 94 to 110 of the Act.”
The bill should be amended to add the following provision:
(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers.
(2) Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, subsection 1 includes payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity.
(3) Within the period of two years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, the minister must establish and make public policies and procedures to implement, monitor compliance with, and report to the public on compliance with subsections 1 and 2.
(4) The power to make regulations under clauses 117 (1) (c) and (d) includes the power to make regulations to implement this section.
Section 72(1) should be amended to add the words “except any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada)”, so that the provision will read in material part:
“72 (1) The Minister may, by order, exempt any regulated entity or class of regulated entities except the any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada) from the application of all or any part of sections 69 to 71, on any terms that the Minister considers necessary. The order ceases to have effect on the earlier of the end of the period of three years that begins on the day on which the order is made and the end of any shorter period specified in the order.”
Observations We Ask the Senate to Attach to Bill C-81
- Since the bill is entitled “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities but does not require any barriers to be removed, the Committee recommends that the bill be strengthened.
- Because the bill depends on the Federal Government and various agencies to use their new powers, but does not require most of those powers to be used, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government report back to the Senate in one year on what duties and time lines for action could be added to the bill.
- Because of concerns from the disability community about the bill splintering its implementation and enforcement, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government report to the Senate in one year on the effectiveness and impact of splintering the bill’s implementation and enforcement among four federal agencies, for further study by the Senate.
- Since the Federal Government spends billions of dollars of the public’s money on procurement of goods, services and facilities, on new infrastructure projects, and on business development loans and grants, the Federal bill should be strengthened to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.