February 10, 2017
The February 10, 2017 Toronto Star includes a report, set out below, that offers a further glimpse into Federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough’s thinking on what the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act should include.
Minister Qualtrough made these important points in an interview with the Toronto Star, on behalf of the Federal Government:
* Cost can no longer be a barrier to creating an accessible Canada.
* The focus of the promised new national accessibility legislation will be on “inclusion and breaking down barriers to inclusion . . . in the broadest sense,”
* Qualtrough doesn’t expect any push-back from her cabinet colleagues. However, she is concerned how MPs will react if businesses in their ridings balk at the legislation when it is introduced.
Also, on Wednesday, February 8, 2017, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was one of the many members of the public who spoke at the Federal Government’s final public consultation forum on the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act, held in Toronto. Below we set out our transcription of his presentation.
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Toronto Star February 10, 2017
Originally posted at:
Minister pushes for accessibility despite cost; MP Carla Qualtrough, on consultation tour, hopes for nationwide culture shift
Federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities wraps up cross-country consultations on proposed accessibility legislation.
Carla Qualtrough, right, Ottawa’s minister of sport and persons with disabilities, chats with Catherine Partlow, a gold medal Special Olympian, prior to a round-table panel at the Abilities Centre in Whitby in August. Qualtrough has just completed a cross-country consultation ahead of crafting Canada’s first national accessibility legislation. (Andrew Lahodynskyj / Toronto Star FILE PHOTO)
By Laurie Monsebraaten
Social Justice Reporter
Thu. Feb. 9, 2017
Cost can no longer be a barrier to creating an accessible Canada, says Carla Qualtrough, federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities.
“Culturally, it still seems acceptable to say something like: ‘This would be really nice to do, Carla, but it’s going to cost too much money.’ And we need to change that,” said Qualtrough who is crafting the country’s first national accessibility legislation.
“I can’t think of any other marginalized population where that excuse still holds any weight,” she said in Toronto Thursday, where she wrapped up five months of cross-country consultations on the legislation. Online submissions continue until the end of February with legislation to be introduced by the end of the year or early 2018.
Qualtrough hopes the new law will spark a culture shift away from the “fallacy” that making the country fully accessible for more than 2.3 million Canadians with a disability would be financially ruinous.
“You can’t discriminate against people because it costs a bit of money,” the human rights lawyer told the Star. “It’s not okay to say: ‘I’d really like my building to be accessible, but it’s going to cost too much.’ You can’t say that. That’s the culture shift.”
“We need to be thinking about Canadians with disabilities not in terms of how much we cost or how much we need from the system,” added Qualtrough, who is blind. “Canadian society has to start to look at us as economic and civic and social participants. That’s what citizenship is.”
About 1,500 people have attended consultations in 18 communities, including 225 in Toronto on Wednesday. About 100 stakeholder groups have held their own consultations and more than 3,000 online submissions have been received.
Common concerns include the need for Ottawa to take a leadership role in accessibility and for the proposed federal law to have teeth. Qualtrough noted that federally-regulated businesses and industries, such as banks, telecommunications companies and airlines that would be covered by the legislation, are “curious” about enforcement.
Consultation participants want Ottawa and the provinces to work together on accessibility so that, for example, a federally-regulated bank and a provincially-regulated credit union next door don’t have different building code or customer service standards, she said.
Advocates have also called for an independent accessibility commissioner to set accessibility standards and enforce them.
Although she acknowledges the need for a common definition for disability to apply to all federal laws and regulations, the focus of the new legislation will be on “inclusion and breaking down barriers to inclusion . . . in the broadest sense,” she said.
Qualtrough doesn’t expect any push-back from her cabinet colleagues. However, she is concerned how MPs will react if businesses in their ridings balk at the legislation when it is introduced.
“I’m getting a lot of nodding of heads right now. But once people see the meat on these bones, they’re going to want more information,” she predicted.
Culture change will be key to the legislation’s success, she said. “If we don’t do this right we’ll have missed out on an historic opportunity. But at the same time, culture change is long-term.”
Canadians with disabilities by the numbers:
• 14%: Percentage of Canadians aged 15 and older with a disability that limits their daily activities.
• 411,600: People aged 15 to 64 not employed, whose disability does not prevent them from working.
• 127,700: Unemployed people with disabilities who have post-secondary education.
• 50%: Percentage of Canadian human rights complaints related to disabilities between 2011 and 2015.
• 6%: Percentage of Canadian human rights complaints related to inaccessible services.
• 2.1 million: Number of Canadians 15 or older at risk of facing physical or communication barriers.
Source: Employment and Social Development Canada
February 8, 2017 Presentation by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Federal Government’s Toronto Public Consultation on the Promised Canadians with Disabilities Act
“My name is David Lepofsky. I’m the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. I encourage the Federal Government to learn from Ontario what we’ve done right, and what we’re doing terribly wrong.
What we’ve done right: The Ontario Legislature set the goal as “full accessibility”, not just the much more moderate “improved accessibility” that the Federal Government has been speaking about. Ontario got it right by setting a deadline, twenty years. Ontario got it right by putting the Government in charge of leading us there, both by enacting and effectively enforcing accessibility standards, to tell obligated organizations what to do. It’s the way to go.
But Ontario’s not doing it well. Learn from what they’ve done wrong. They’ve set standards that are far too weak and don’t cover most of the barriers we face. They make the development of the standards and their enactment so much beholden to the political and the Public Service process that it’s become an incredible drag on progress. And they’ve left enforcement in the hands of the Public Service, and at the whim of politicians who may decide that they don’t really want to effectively enforce very much at all.
As a result, our standards are too weak and the enforcement is far too paltry. As a result of that, we strongly encourage the Federal Government to create a new office, the Canada Accessibility Commissioner, to be independent of the Public Service and of Cabinet, to report directly to Parliament, and to have the lead responsibility for developing and enforcing accessibility standards, and to serve as our national watchdog. We don’t have that in Ontario, and if we had, we’d be doing much, much better.
As well, in the introduction, we were told not to think about the federal law affecting barriers that are within provincial jurisdiction. Respectfully, that’s wrong. It would be enormously helpful if the Federal Government would develop model standards, not enforceable in a province unless the province agrees, but which could set national standards to which organizations across Canada could opt into, and which could create real progress. Organizations out there, businesses and others, don’t want to have to follow a patchwork of rules. They’d rather know that if they meet one national model standard, they’ve lived up to all their obligations.
Finally, I strongly and we strongly encourage the Government of Canada not to go the way of a private accessibility certification process. Enforcement and implementation must be public enforcement and public employment, that’s accountable to the public by the public sector.
If anybody wants more at the break, approach me and my colleagues. We’ve got a brochure and a sign-up list to learn more about what we’re all about. Thanks very much.”