Canada’s House of Commons Unanimously Passes Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act , Sending It to the Senate, But the Federal Liberal Government Blocked Many Key Amendments that Would Have Made It Strong Legislation

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Canada’s House of Commons Unanimously Passes Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act , Sending It to the Senate, But the Federal Liberal Government Blocked Many Key Amendments that Would Have Made It Strong Legislation

November 29, 2018

          SUMMARY

1. Bill C-81 Moves Forward Through the Parliamentary Process

On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, Canada’s House of Commons unanimously voted on Third Reading to pass Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. A number of amendments were made to the bill while it was being debated at the House of Commons’ Standing Committee that held public hearings about the bill in October. However, the federal Liberals used their majority in the House of Commons to defeat a series of important amendments that the opposition parties had commendably sought on behalf of people with disabilities in Canada, including on behalf of the AODA Alliance among others.

Bill C-81 remains a weak bill, even though it was modestly improved by the Government’s amendments. It remains strong on intentions but weak on implementation and enforcement. The Federal Government systematically voted against important amendments that the opposition parties proposed, and that would have substantially strengthened this bill.

Over the past weeks, a strong and impressive consensus has emerged from the disability community on key amendments to Bill C-81 that are needed. Yet the Federal Government has largely rejected this consensus position. Before the Standing Committee began to debate amendments to the bill last month, a compelling October 30, 2018 Open Letter was sent to the Federal Government. It was co-signed by 34 disability organizations, including the AODA Alliance. The number of signing organizations has grown to an incredible 91. To find out how your community organization can sign on to this Open Letter, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/in-a-powerful-open-letter-sent-to-the-federal-government-an-extraordinary-lineup-of-thirty-four-disability-organizations-unite-to-press-for-key-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada/

Below we list the names of all the community organizations that have co-signed this October 30, 2018 Open Letter.

After the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities finished its consideration of Bill C-81, the bill went back to the House of Commons for Third Reading debates. Those debates took place on November 21 and 22, 2018. We are honoured that several MPs quoted and spoke in positive terms about the position that the AODA Alliance has advanced on Bill C-81.

During those debates, the Federal Government made a number of statements on which we need to comment. For example, the Government made it sound like the disability community is happy with the bill as it now is. This disregards the positions of so many who appeared before the Standing Committee. It also ignores the October 30, 2018 Open Letter, already signed by 91 disability organizations.

The Government statements also at points clearly overstate what the bill actually does. The minister said that among key messages that the Government received from the disability community was that this bill should be “ambitious.” We regret that without passing the amendments sought in the October 30, 2018 Open Letter to the Federal Government, this bill falls well short on that score. This is especially so  when we venture beyond the Government’s good intentions to examine its actual implementation and enforcement. See below our comments on key statements during Third Reading debates.

We will have more to say in the coming days and weeks on the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Federal Government passed and those which it blocked. In a forthcoming article in ARCH Alert, the publication of the ARCH Disability Law Centre, ARCH lawyer Kerri Joffe offers this summary of some of the key amendments that were made to Bill C-81:

“In its amended form, the Bill now requires the CRTC, CTA and government to make at least one regulation about accessibility plans, feedback processes or progress reports within 2 years from the time the Bill becomes law. It still allows for organizations to be exempted from complying with accessibility requirements, but those exemptions are now limited to 3 years and reasons for granting the exemption must be made public. The Bill now requires organizations to take into account important principles set out in the Bill when they create their accessibility plans. The definitions of “barrier” and “disability” have been expanded by adding cognitive to the list of types of disabilities, and by clarifying that disability includes those that may not be evident. Communication and facilities were added as areas in which barriers must be identified, removed and prevented, and barriers must now be addressed in the design and delivery of programs and services, not just the delivery of programs and services. These are just some examples of the amendments to the Bill that were adopted by HUMA.”

During Third Reading debates, the opposition Conservatives brought a motion to have Bill C-81 referred back to the Standing Committee, so it could consider further amendments to address the unmet concerns that the disability community had raised. All opposition members voted in support of that motion. The federal Liberals all voted against it, so it was defeated. The House of Commons then voted to unanimously pass the bill, on Third Reading.

Bill C-81 now goes to the Senate for debate and vote. It is open to Canada’s Senate to make amendments to Bill C-81. We will have more to say about that in the coming days.

2. Another Important Anniversary in the History of Ontario’s Grassroots Accessibility Movement

Believe it or not, it was 24 years ago today that Ontario’s grassroots movement was born. It fought for the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. We now campaign to get that law effectively implemented. It is also now very active in trying to get Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, turned into a strong law of which Canada can be proud.

We have had quite a journey, and still have so much work to do. Twenty-four years ago today, a group of about twenty individuals ended up together in a meeting room at Queen’s Park. They agreed to form a coalition to campaign for a strong Ontario accessibility law.

The rest is an amazing history. As a result of tenacious grassroots efforts by individuals and community organizations across Ontario, we have clearly made some real progress. We’ve won Ontario accessibility legislation, and several accessibility standards enacted under it. Yet we still have a long way to go. Our non-partisan campaign continues. Check out how we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the birth of our movement, four years ago, by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/new2015-whats-new/aoda-alliance-holds-successful-celebration-at-queens-park-to-mark-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-birth-of-ontarios-non-partisan-movement-for-strong-disability-accessibility-legislation/

Meanwhile, the Ontario Government has continued its freeze on the work of the Education Standards Development Committee and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Students with disabilities and patients with disabilities must still keep facing disability accessibility barriers, with no end in sight. We will persist in our advocacy efforts to get these committees unfrozen so they can go back to work.

          MORE DETAILS

AODA Alliance Commentary on Key Quotations from Third Reading Debate in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

* Kate Young  Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib. Stated:

“We know that people with disabilities are very happy with this bill, and we are very committed to making sure we follow through on this bill.”

Liberal Darrell Samson Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS said:

“People with disabilities are extremely proud of the bill. It will improve as we move forward.”

Our Comment: Many were happy that the Federal Government brought forward a bill to open this discussion and debate. However many are not happy with the bill as written.

This is demonstrated by the 91 disability organizations that signed the October 30, 2018 Open Letter to the Federal Government on Bill C-81. It is demonstrated by the overwhelming thrust of the presentations from the disability community to the Standing Committee. It was also amply shown by the AODA Alliance’s detailed brief, showing the many problems with the bill. It sought fully 97 amendments. A good number of disability organizations supported our brief.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough said:

“Bill C-81 is, without any doubt, a game-changing piece of legislation for Canada, especially for Canadians with disabilities. It sends a strong message that our government is taking action to advance accessibility and inclusion. We are leading the way to make Canada a barrier-free country for everyone.”

Our Comment: As written now, Bill C-81 is unfortunately not a game changer for people with disabilities. Its provisions are tepid, not strong. Unless substantially strengthened, there is no assurance that it will be “leading the way to make Canada a barrier-free country for everyone”

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“The new Canadian accessibility standards development organization, CASDO, would be a forum for technical experts, industry and Canadians with disabilities to come together to develop accessibility standards that would work for everyone. Once accessibility standards are developed, the Government of Canada would adopt them into regulations to make them law. Having regulations based on standards rather than enacting regulations directly in the proposed act would ensure that rules could be changed more fluidly over time to reflect new advances and best practices.”

Our Comment: It is good that the bill allows for the establishment of CASDO, the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization. It can recommend accessibility standards. These are not binding and enforceable until and unless the Federal Cabinet enacts them into enforceable regulations.

However, contrary to the minister’s statement, the bill does not ensure that “Once accessibility standards are developed, the Government of Canada would adopt them into regulations to make them law.” The Government would be free to never enact any of them. It would also be free to substantially water down an accessibility standard that CASDO proposes.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“We expect that CASDO, the accessibility commissioner, and the chief accessibility officer would be up and running within 12 months of the legislation’s coming into force. We also plan that the first set of regulations under the legislation would come into force in 2020-21.”

Our Comment: The bill sets no deadline for the establishment of CASDO, or for the appointment of the Accessibility Commissioner or the Chief Accessibility Officer. It requires a first regulation to be enacted by the federal Cabinet, by the Canada Transportation Agency, and by the CRTC within two years of the bill coming into force. That first regulation could be very narrow and weak. Moreover, if the Federal Government delays the bill’s coming into force for an extended period, that two-year time line for enacting the first regulation could be years from now.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“The changes made to Bill C-81 in committee advanced the vision we had for the law. The suggestions of stakeholders were incorporated into the bill in a spirit of collaboration and co-operation, the same spirit that has guided the evolution of the bill to date.”

Our Comment: It is good that some amendments were passed that were recommended at the Standing Committee, including some recommended by the AODA Alliance. However, as noted earlier, absolutely essential amendments needed to transform this from a weak bill to a good bill were defeated in Committee by the Federal Government, even though they were supported by opposition parties and by so many from the disability community who presented to that Standing Committee.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“The testimony from witnesses and written submissions informed the 74 amendments accepted at committee. I am supportive of the changes not only because they came from the community, but also because I believe they have made this good legislation into great legislation.

I would like to highlight four key changes that were made at committee to strengthen Bill C-81.

First, the current purpose clause was amended to add communication as a priority area. We heard compelling testimony in committee that spoke to the impact of barriers to communication, particularly for persons with communication and language disabilities. This amendment prioritizes the barriers experienced by people with communication and language disabilities that can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities.

By making communication a priority in and of itself, we can guarantee a consistent, harmonized approach to addressing the barriers to accessibility faced by people with communication disabilities in every federally regulated sector.”

Our Comment: It is good that “communication” was added to the bill’s purpose provision. However, seriously undermining the bill’s effectiveness, the Federal Government refused to enshrine in the bill an end-date in the bill for Canada to become accessible. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets such an end-date in its purpose provision. The Federal Government did not listen to the many calls from the disability community for Bill C-81 to do so as well.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“Second, while legislation applies to federally regulated entities, we know that achieving a barrier-free Canada means that accessibility needs to extend beyond federal jurisdiction. Accessibility is an area of shared federal, provincial and territorial responsibility, and realizing a truly accessible Canada would require working with our provincial and territorial partners. Stakeholders have echoed the sentiment, stressing the need for collaboration to harmonize accessibility practices across the country and the importance of making sure that the minister responsible for these are required to work with provinces and territories.”

Our Comment: We agree that “…achieving a barrier-free Canada means that accessibility needs to extend beyond federal jurisdiction.” However, the Federal Government has refused to amend Bill C-81 to deploy in it the Federal Government’s most powerful means to advance accessibility across all jurisdictions.

Specifically, the Federal Government did not amend Bill C-81 to require that no federal money can be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. Under Bill C-81, as now written, a province could get a grant from the Federal Government to build a hospital or university building, without ever requiring that this new infrastructure be fully accessible.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“Third, the disability community has made it very clear that accessibility is everybody’s responsibility. The community asked for increased accountability and transparency on exemptions. Like stakeholders, I agree that exemptions should never provide a loophole from accessibility. This would be counter to the spirit of Bill C-81. That is why I am pleased that Bill C-81 has now been changed in two key areas: first, by placing a three-year limit on all exemptions; and second, by requiring that the rationale for any exemptions be published. We must bolster transparency in the exemptions process, and in doing so we would ensure that the public and the disability community can hold authorities accountable on exemptions.

I believe that stricter provisions regarding accountability and transparency strengthen Bill C-81.”

Our Comment: These are only modest improvements. The bill still gives far too much sweeping power to exempt obligated organizations from some of their duties under the bill, even though no such exemptions are justified. Why should the Federal Government ever be able to give itself such an exemption? Why should the unelected and unaccountable Canada Transportation Agency ever be able to give a transportation organization like Air Canada or ViaRail such an exemption? The bill does not even delineate what reasons there must be to justify an exemption. An obligated organization could be given an exemption even if their accessibility provisions are poor and their plans to correct them are feeble.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“Finally, I want to make clear that our intent with this bill has always been to hit the ground running on day one. I am pleased to see that an amendment was made to reflect this intent in the bill. It requires all bodies with authority to make regulations under this act to make their first regulations within two years of the act’s coming into force. The establishment of these regulations would also trigger the clock for the five-year review of the act by Parliament. This will ensure that the review would begin by 2025. In like manner, there is no end date for accessibility. Accessibility requires consistent, conscious and continual effort. The bill also provides mechanisms that require people with disabilities to be at the table to monitor implementation and support meaningful progress, independent of the government of the day.

We listened to people in the disability community who told us that accessibility in Canada has been long outdated, and I know that we need to take action right away. That is why I want to reiterate that we are strongly committed to ensuring that this bill translates into significant progress in terms of accessibility in a timely manner. We are determined to do what it takes to accomplish that.”

Our Comment: It is good that the minister recognizes that “Accessibility requires consistent, conscious and continual effort” and that “…we are strongly committed to ensuring that this bill translates into significant progress in terms of accessibility in a timely manner.” However the bill does not require either to occur. It requires that the first regulations are enacted in the first two years, no matter how weak or limited they may be. After that, it sets no time lines for implementation action by the Government itself, before appointing an Independent Review, five years after the first regulation is enacted, or seven years after the bill goes into force.

The bill still does not require the Federal Government or the CRTC or the Canada Transportation Agency to ever make a proposed voluntary accessibility standard into an enforceable accessibility standard regulation. Under this bill, there may never be any federal accessibility standard regulations enacted. Without enforceable accessibility standard regulations, the Federal Government will not ensure that “this bill translates into significant progress in terms of accessibility in a timely manner.”

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“For too long, Canadians with disabilities have had to fight on their own when it came to advancing their rights. By bringing in new measures to improve accessibility, with a focus on accountability and transparency, we are moving toward a new culture of accessibility. The accessible Canada act would work to put an end to the practice of exclusion. With Bill C-81, we can have a system where our institutions, not individuals, are responsible for enabling change. We can move on from the principle of “nothing about us without us” to simply “nothing without us,” because everything is about us.””

Our Comment: The minister here again talks about measures to “improve accessibility.” She acknowledges that in the bill, “…there is no end date for accessibility.” This is a dramatically less ambitious goal than the one people with disabilities need, namely the goal of achieving accessibility in Canada by a legislated deadline.

It is good that the Minister endorses the principle of “Nothing about us without us.” Unfortunately, her Government’s rejection of key amendments to the bill, around which such a strong consensus has developed within the disability community, fails to be true to the principle “Nothing about us without us.”

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“Each standard will be developed in concert with the disability community and through the board of the Canadian accessibility standards development organization, or CASDO. We will decide. We will let the community decide which standards and what the priorities of the community are as we move forward with them to ensure that everyone comes along for this journey.”

Our Comment: This overstates the participation of the disability community. It is true that a majority of the CASDO board, some six of eleven board members, must have a disability. As well, it is anticipated that CASDO will engage in consulting the public, including individuals with disabilities in its work developing voluntary accessibility standards. These are all good measures, if they materialize.

However, contrary to the minister’s statement, the bill does not let the community decide which accessibility standards will be recommended by CASDO as voluntary standards, i.e. where the minister suggested: “…We will let the community decide which standards and what the priorities of the community are…” Six people with disabilities on the CASDO board are not “the community.”

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“Let me give my colleagues an example of how the life of a Canadian with a disability would change because of this. Right now, as someone who is legally blind, I walk into a bank, and I cannot access an ATM. What do I do? What are my options? I have to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. I file that complaint. I say that this particular ATM is not accessible. Two years from now, someone may tell me, “You are right. That wasn’t accessible. You were discriminated against”, and order that this one ATM in that one bank be changed.

With this new regime we would be setting up, the accessibility commissioner would set up a standard for ATMs so that every ATM and every bank in this country would be accessible. We would not be relying on the individual to fight these fights alone. It is our system that we are acknowledging is broken, not the people.”

Our Comment: Contrary to the minister’s statement, there is no assurance that any enforceable accessibility standard regulation would ever be enacted under the bill to address accessibility of
ATM’s (automated teller machines). It is open to the Federal Government to enact one, but there is no requirement that it do so. Moreover, it is the  federal Cabinet, and not the Accessibility Commissioner, who would have the power to make such a regulation.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“I can assure the member opposite that we are committed to hitting the ground running with respect to the creation of these standards and organizations. We know that there are existing standards that will be easy to adopt, but I am not going to compromise on ensuring that the voices of Canadians with disabilities continue to be heard through these processes and that they continue to have places at our tables as we move forward with the creation of standards. If it takes a year or two to get this started, it will be worth it.”

Our Comment: We don’t know which existing standards the Minister considers worthy of prompt adoption. It is important for the Federal Government to make them public now. For example, we would not recommend an adoption of most of the accessibility standards enacted to date under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, as they are far too weak.

* Minister Carla Qualtrough stated:

“We built the system contained in Bill C-81 on the existing system. This system was not drawn up on a whiteboard. We have existing regulators. We are trying to be efficient. We have expertise within government organizations. We have complicated regulatory frameworks within the CRTC and the CTA. We have a Canadian Human Rights Commission that is very well respected and that does very good work. Building on those existing entities, we had to fill in the gaps. We knew that there were areas within federal jurisdiction that were not covered, so we would create the position of the accessibility commissioner.

We would enshrine in this law, and we would have agreements between these organizations, that there would be no wrong door. Wherever people went to state their concern or file a complaint, they would be pointed in the right direction. Canadians can be assured of this.”

Our Comment: The minister here is again rejecting the strong message from so many voices from the disability community, who objected to the bill’s splintering its implementation and enforcement among four federal agencies. We want a simple and easy-to-use one-stop-shopping approach, where the Accessibility Commissioner has responsibility for all enforcement under the bill.

For example, the minister rejects the strong opposition from the disability community to the bill’s giving authority, or more authority, in this area, to the Canada Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunication Commission. The 91 disability organizations that signed the October 30, 2018 Open Letter have united in opposition to the minister’s view.

The minister gives four poor reasons for the Government’s intransigence on this issue. First, she says that splintering the bill’s implementation and enforcement is “efficient.” We have shown that this splintering will cost the public and the disability community more, will slow the bill’s implementation, and will risk inconsistent implementation of the bill. That is not efficient. This splintering only serves the interests of those obligated organizations that will want to exploit this splintering to delay and drag out the implementation and enforcement process.

Second, the minister said that these organizations have expertise. To the contrary, the CTA and CRTC have not shown themselves to have the required expertise in disability accessibility. They have had years if not decades to prove that they had such expertise.

Third, the minister said that there would be no “wrong door”. The Government is superficially only focusing on the door. It has disregarded the inequities that are risked after people with disabilities go through the door. The bill does not ensure fair and consistent processes or results across the four splintered federal agencies where people with disabilities must struggle for justice.

Fourth, the minister said: “We have complicated regulatory frameworks within the CRTC and the CTA.” That shows why they are an unfair place to subject people with disabilities to their systems. Their complexities will favour well-funded obligated organizations. People with disabilities need a simple, fast process, like the one the bill commendably sets up at the new Accessibility Commissioner. Why, in the case of recurring disability accessibility barriers in transportation, broadcasting, or telecommunication services, should people with disabilities, who seek accessibility, be subjected to “complicated regulatory frameworks within the CRTC and the CTA”?

* Kate Young Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib. Stated:

“I want to say specifically that our government wants to hit the ground running when this bill passes. New regulations will be in place very quickly, within two years after the act comes into force. That means that we are going to start moving right away and that the regulations will be enacted. Once Bill C-81 receives royal assent, the Canadian accessibility standards organization would be up and running within one year.”

Our Comment: Nothing in the bill ensures that CASDO will be up and running within one year of the bill’s proclamation.

Kate Young Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib. Stated:

“I wanted to ask her about the fact that as far as the Canadian accessibility standards development organization, CASDO, is concerned, it will establish Canada as a national and global accessibility leader by putting Canadians with disabilities in control of setting the accessibility standards that affect their lives. Does the member agree with that?

I know that our minister has always felt that people with disabilities have not had a say, but that now this bill gives them a say. They have a majority stand on this committee. Does the member not agree that this bill gives people with disabilities a stake in this bill and will have them at the table making decisions about them?”

Our Comment: This overstates the power that this bill gives the disability community. As stated earlier, at CASDO, at least some six people with disabilities whom the Federal Government will select will serve on the CASDO board of up to 11 members. That is not the same as ensuring that the bill “…will establish Canada as a national and global accessibility leader by putting Canadians with disabilities in control of setting the accessibility standards that affect their lives.”

* “Rosemarie Falk Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, could the member tell us what will come into effect the day the bill receives royal assent and how soon the CASDO board will be established?

Liberal

Darrell Samson Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, we are confident that the standards will be in place within one years, so things will get moving as soon as the bill passes. We expect regulations to be in place no later than two years.”

Our Comment: Nothing in the bill requires a standard to be in place within one year, or ever. An earlier statement by the Government said that CASDO would be up and running within a year, something that the bill does not itself require. However, even if CASDO is up and running within one year, it is not clear how CASDO can have a voluntary standard developed by that same one  year mark.

Updated List of the 91 Organizations that Signed the October 30, 2018 Open Letter to the Federal Government on the Need to Strengthen Bill C-81

Council of Canadians with Disabilities – Conseil des Canadiens avec déficiences (CCD)

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

DAWN-RAFH Canada

Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL)

National Network for Mental Health (NNMH)

Independent Living Canada (ILC)

March of Dimes Canada

Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)

People First of Canada

Canadian Centre on Disability Studies

Canadian Epilepsy Alliance/ L’Alliance canadienne de l’épilepsie  (CEA/ACE)

National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

Muscular Dystrophy Canada

Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Association (CASDA)

Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada

L’Arche Canada

Hydrocephalus Canada

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Québec Accessible

Views for the Visually Impaired

Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Community Living Ontario (CLO)

Barrier-Free Manitoba

Regroupement des associations de personnes Handicapées de l’Outaouais (RAPHO)

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

DeafBlind Ontario Services

Community Living Toronto (CLT)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec (COPHAN)

Canadian Multicultural Disability Centre, Inc. (CMDCI)

Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)

Northwest Territories Council for Disability

Voice of Albertans with Disabilities

Ontario Disability Coalition

SPH Planning and Consulting Ltd.

The Law, Disability & Social Change Project

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)

Nova Scotia Association for Community Living

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunity

Disability Alliance of British Columbia

Disability Positive

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (NL)

Realize / Réalise

Calgary Ability Network Human Rights

Down Syndrome Association of Ontario

Southern Alberta Individualized Planning Association

Gateway Association (Edmonton)

BALANCE for Blind Adults

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians Toronto Chapter (AEBC Toronto Chapter)

The Keremeos Measuring Up Team

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Altergo

Aphasie Québec – Le réseau

Association multiethnique pour l’intégration des personnes handicapées

DéPhy Montréal

Ex aequo

Regroupement des organismes de personnes handicapées du Centre-du-Québec

Regroupement des Usagers du Transport Adapté et accessible de l’île de Montréal (RUTA Mtl)

Réseau international sur le Processus de production du handicap (RIPPH)

Société logique

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Older Women’s Network

Association d’informations en logements et immeubles adaptés (AILIA)

Association du syndrome de Usher du Québec (ASUQ)

Réseau québécois pour l’inclusion sociale des personnes sourdes et malentendantes (ReQIS)

Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Québec (RAAQ)

Saskatoon Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (C.I.L.T.) Inc

The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada – Ligue des driots de la personne de B’nai Brith Canada

Barrier-Free New Brunswick

Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities

The BC Disability Caucus

The Independent Living Centre London and Area

Ontario Association of the Deaf (OAD)

Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)

Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities (NSLEO)

Alberta Disability Workers Association

reachAbility Association

Champions Career Centre

The Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Guide Dog Users of Canada

Action des femmes handicapées – Montréal

Excerpt from the Analysis of Amendments to Bill C-81 at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

Note: Thanks to Kerri Joffe, legal counsel at ARCH Disability Law Centre, for preparing an analysis, of which this is the summary.

Bill C-81 Second Reading, as amended by HUMA Committee, November 19, 2018

Summary of Amendments Made by HUMA to Bill C-81

 

In the Preamble, Canadians was changed to persons in Canada.

The definition of barrier was expanded by adding the words an impairment, including and by adding cognitive to the list of types of disabilities.

The definition of disability was expanded by adding the words any impairment, including and by adding cognitive to the list of types of disabilities, and by adding whether evident or not.

 

Throughout the Bill, the words progressive realization were changed to realization.

The areas targeted for barrier identification, removal and prevention were expanded to include an additional area of communication, other than information and communication technologies.

Regulated entities now have requirements to include communication in their accessibility plans.

Within the areas targeted for barrier identification, removal and prevention, the procurement of goods and services was expanded to goods, services and facilities.

Within the areas targeted for barrier identification, removal and prevention, the delivery of programs and services was expanded to the design and delivery of programs and services.

Throughout the Bill, the use of abilities or disabilities was changed to disabilities. In particular, this change affects the principles (section 6).

An additional principle was added to the Bill, that the development and revision of accessibility standards and the making of regulations must be done with the objective of achieving the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities.

 

Regulated entities now have an additional requirement that they must take into account the principles set out in section 6 when it prepares an accessibility plan or an updated version of its accessibility plan.

The requirement for the Minister to work with the provinces and territories to coordinate accessibility efforts was strengthened. The Bill now states that the Minister must make every reasonable effort to collaborate with provincial or territorial authorities with a view to coordinating efforts in relation to matters relating to accessibility.

An additional consideration was added to the appointment of CASDO directors, regarding the importance of having directors that are representative of the diversity of disabilities faced by Canadians.

The CRTC and CTA and Government now have powers to make regulations respecting the feedback process which regulated entities must create in order to receive feedback about the steps they are taking to identify, remove and prevent barriers.

The CRTC, CTA and Government are now required to make at least one regulation about accessibility plans, feedback processes or progress reports within 2 years of the ACA becoming law.

Any exemptions from complying with accessibility requirements are now limited to 3 years. Any orders granting exemptions must be published in the Canada Gazette and reasons for the granting of an exemption must be made public.

The Accessibility Commissioner may decline to investigate a complaint if the complaint is based on acts or omissions the complainant became aware of more than one year, or any longer period of time that the Accessibility Commissioner considers appropriate in the circumstances, before filing the complaint. This amendment clarifies that the one year period begins from the time the complainant became aware of the complaint, not from the time the failure to comply occurred.

When Accessibility Commissioner reviews a decision not to investigate a complaint or to discontinue an investigation, the complainant will be given opportunity to make submissions in a manner that is accessible to them.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal now has power to extend the 30 day time period for appealing an accessibility complaint. The period for appealing cannot be more than 60 days.

The Bill now clarifies that an appeal of an accessibility complaint can be made based to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal based on a question of law or fact or mixed law and fact, including a principle of natural justice. The request for an appeal must set out the evidence that supports the appeal.

The Bill now clarifies that at an appeal, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal may confirm, change or rescind the Accessibility Commissioner’s decision, or may give the decision that the Accessibility Commissioner should have given or refer the complaint back to the Accessibility Commissioner for reconsideration in accordance with any direction the Tribunal may give.

The Bill now permits the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearing an appeal to allow arguments and new evidence not previously available when the complaint was heard by the Accessibility Commissioner.