March 31, 2016
1. New Federal Budget is Another Important Step on the Road to the Promised Canadians with Disabilities Act
In its first budget, which Finance Minister Morneau announced in Parliament on March 22, 2016, the Justin Trudeau Government repeated its 2015 election pledge to enact the Canadians with Disabilities Act. It specifically committed 2 million dollars for the Government’s consultation on the development of this legislation, in 2016 and 2017. The Budget included:
“To eliminate systemic barriers and deliver equality of opportunity to all Canadians living with disabilities, the Government will consult with provinces, territories, municipalities and stakeholders to introduce a Canadians with Disabilities Act. This budget allocates $2 million over two years, starting in 2016–17, to support the full participation of Canadians with disabilities in this process. “
The new Federal Government’s Throne Speech last fall was unusually brief. It included no reference to the Government’s Canadians with Disabilities Act pledge. We can view this Budget Speech as expanding on the Throne Speech. It provides a fuller list of the new Federal Government’s priorities. As such, Barrier-Free Canada commends the Federal Government both for highlighting the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act as a priority, and for committing 2 million dollars for the consultation process leading to the development of this legislation.
On March 22, 2016, in a first in Canadian history, Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, tweeted about his Government’s budget announcement about the Canadians with Disabilities Act:
“Justin Trudeau: To eliminate barriers and ensure equality of opportunity, #Budget2016 will create a Canadians with Disabilities Act. 3/22/2016 4:52:16 PM”
We greet this as great news. Several months ago, we called on the Justin Trudeau Government to get the Canadians with Disabilities Act developed, enacted and in force by July 1, 2017, Canada’s 150th birthday. Although the Government has not committed to that deadline, this Budget announcement would enable that to be achieved. We again urge the Government to set that specific goal.
2. How You Can Help
On January 12, 2016, Barrier-Free Canada wrote Canada’s new Disabilities Minister, Carla Qualtrough to list her ideas on how she should consult with Canadians on the contents of the Canadians with Disabilities Act. Prime Minister Trudeau assigned to her the responsibility to lead the development of this legislation. She has not answered our letter, and has not, to our knowledge, announced any consultations on the Canadians with Disabilities Act. Now that she has the funds to conduct those consultations, we encourage the Government to start those consultations right away.
We encourage you to let Minister Qualtrough and your Member of Parliament know if you support our proposals for how this consultation should be conducted. Snail mail letters to Members of Parliament do not need postage. You can send an email or snail mail to Minister Qualtro.
Via Email: Carla.Qualtrough@parl.gc.ca
Via Snail Mail: The Hon. Carla Qualtro
Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1A 0A6
We recently made public a Discussion Paper on what the Canadians with Disabilities Act could include. It was written by David Lepofsky, co-chair of Barrier-Free Canada and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. It is meant as food for thought, to help you come up with your own ideas on what this law should include.
You can download the new Discussion Paper on What the Canadians with Disabilities Act Should Include, in an accessible MS Word document.
Send us your feedback on this Discussion Paper. Do you agree with the ingredients for the Canadians with Disabilities Act that it proposes? Are there other things you think should be included in the Canadians with Disabilities Act?
Send your feedback to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Media Coverage
Writer Stephen Trumper has written an article in support of the passing of a Canadians with disabilities Act.
In his interview David Lepofsky shows why Canada needs the Canadians with Disabilities Act.
On March 22 Barrier-Free Canada co-chair Donna Jodhan was interviewed by Kim Kilpatrick and Shelly Morris, regarding the Canadians with Disabilities Act, for an Ottawa based radio station.
As well, the Calgary Herald ran a story, set out below, on the Canadians with Disabilities Act Budget announcement on March 24, 2016. Below we set out that article. At one point in the article there is a reference to physical and attitudinal barriers. We note that according to Barrier-Free Canada’s principles for the Canadians with Disabilities Act, this legislation must address all kinds of disability accessibility barriers, and not only physical and attitudinal barriers.
The Calgary Herald March 24, 2016
Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Tony Caldwell
The federal budget unveiled this week includes a promise to eliminate barriers for Canadians living with disabilities by introducing a national disabilities act — a document advocates have long said is needed.
Organizations that support adults and children with disabilities say several items in the fiscal document, especially the creation of a Canadians with Disabilities Act, signal the Liberal government is committed to consulting people with disabilities to build an inclusive and accessible country.
“We haven’t had a cross-Canada consultation with the disability community in an awfully long time,” said Michael Bach, executive vice-president of the Canadian Association for Community Living, an organization that helps people with intellectual disabilities and their families.
“We’re hopeful. The budget sends some good messages.”
From a revamped Canada Child Benefit, which increases funds for low- and middle-income families that have children with significant disabilities, to an investment in the Youth Employment Strategy, with a particular focus on youth with disabilities, Bach said the 2016 budget has left his organization hopeful.
“There’s opportunity here, and that’s what’s new,” he said. “There hasn’t been opportunity to have these national discussions about these issues in a very long time.”
There is currently no national legislation protecting the rights of Canadians with disabilities.
The budget earmarked $2 million over two years for engagement that will result in the introduction of a Canadians with Disabilities Act.
Jeff Dyer, executive director at Accessible Housing. Photo submitted
“That commitment is a key signal,” said Jeff Dyer, executive director at Accessible Housing Calgary. “It remains to be seen right now what (the act) will look like, but if it mirrors something along the lines of what we see in the U.S. or Ontario, there’s great hope it will have a levelling effect for people with disabilities.”
In 2005, Ontario introduced the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and more than 25 years ago, the United States introduced a civil liberties law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Enacted by Congress in 1990, the document acknowledged millions of Americans with disabilities faced discrimination and exclusion in areas including employment, housing, education, transportation, health services and recreation. The act provided a national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against people with physical or mental disabilities.
In a statement, Rick Hansen, CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, said promising money to the creation of a Canadians with Disabilities Act is a positive step to remove “visible and invisible barriers.”
“An act itself won’t solve everything right away, there are still many physical and attitudinal barriers to find solutions for, but by working together we can start to address this urgent need and make sure that people with disabilities are living to their full potential,” said the Canadian Paralympian, philanthropist and activist.
Dyer said in addition to the money set aside for the act, he’s hopeful about $4 million allocated in the budget over two years for the Enabling Accessibility Fund to support the costs of construction and renovations for improving accessibility.
“It’s a recognition that there are people excluded from basic infrastructure as it relates to recreation or community activities that the government notices and has to make some changes towards,” he said.
Cindy Neufeld with Between Friends, a Calgary organization that provides opportunities for people with disabilities, welcomed the various funds promised in the Liberal budget that will make life easier for people with disabilities.
“We’re pleased (the funds) should make it easier for families to access programs that are in the community to help their children,” she said.
“Having a child with a disability comes with a real economic cost, as well as a social cost, and anything that can be done to make it easier, is great.”