On The International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, the AODA Alliance Calls on the Senate to Amend the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act” After the Trudeau Government Voted Down Key Amendments in the House of Commons

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On The International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, the AODA Alliance Calls on the Senate to Amend the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act” After the Trudeau Government Voted Down Key Amendments in the House of Commons

December 3, 2018 Toronto: A tenacious Ontario-based disability rights coalition, the AODA Alliance, unveils its plans to take a campaign for Canada to enact a strong national accessibility law to Canada’s Senate! The proposed “Accessible Canada Act” which the House of Commons passed last week, is too weak to achieve its goal of making Canada barrier-free for over five million people in Canada with disabilities. Therefore the Senate needs to hold public hearings next year, and to make key amendments that the Trudeau Government blocked in the House of Commons, according to the AODA Alliance, a non-partisan Ontario disability coalition.

To mark December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities, the AODA Alliance calls on the Senate to hold public hearings and to substantially strengthen Bill C-81, to fix its major deficiencies. Key deficiencies in the bill are spelled out in a powerful October 30, 2018 Open Letter to the Government, signed by 91 disability organizations including the AODA Alliance. (set out below)

“People with disabilities still face too many accessibility barriers in areas that the Federal Government regulates, like air or train travel, cable and internet TV service, and dealing with the Federal Government,” said David Lepofsky, who led the decade-long grassroots campaign for Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation, and now chairs the AODA Alliance which campaigns to get that Ontario law effectively implemented. “It’s good that the Trudeau Government said it wants to become a leader on accessibility by enacting a great law that will make Canada barrier-free, putting the disability community in a central role and relieving individuals with disabilities from having to battle each barrier they face, one at a time. However Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions but weak on implementation and enforcement. It’s strong on symbolism, but weak on substance.”

In October many disability organizations, of which the AODA Alliance is but one, each repeatedly pressed for substantial amendments during House of Commons Standing Committee hearings. Despite this, the Trudeau Government only allowed limited improvements to the bill, while systematically voting down opposition amendments that would have made this a strong law. Key problems with the bill include, e.g.

* It’s good the bill sets the goal of a barrier-free Canada, but it doesn’t set a deadline for achieving this, unlike Ontario’s accessibility law. People with disabilities must indefinitely wait for accessibility, possibly forever.

* It’s good the bill aims to be enforced, but it creates a confusing and complicated enforcement maze for people with disabilities to navigate. Many asked the Federal Government to simplify the bill, by designating one federal agency, the proposed new Accessibility Commissioner, to lead the bill’s enforcement. Instead, over strong objections from many, the bill splinters the bill’s enforcement among fully four federal agencies. Of these, the Canada Transportation Agency and the CRTC have poor track records and no expertise on accessibility. They and their procedures are feared to lean in favour of the industries they regulate.

* It’s good that the bill lets the Government enact enforceable regulations to set accessibility standards. However, the bill doesn’t require that any accessibility standard regulations ever be enacted, unlike Ontario’s accessibility law.

“We wouldn’t want the Canada Transportation Agency to ever enact an accessibility regulation under this legislation, as is,” said Lepofsky for the AODA Alliance. “That’s because the bill  preserves the CTA’s harmful power to set rules on accessibility that could weaken our access rights, and that would take away our right to seek greater accessibility at a hearing under the CTA’s legislation.”

During House of Commons Third Reading Debates, the Trudeau Government claimed that people with disabilities are “very happy” with this bill. Yet in a showing of a powerful consensus, 91 disability community organizations wrote the Federal Government the Open Letter, set out below, that details major problems with the bill that need to be fixed. The Trudeau Government’s limited amendments to the bill didn’t solve these concerns.

“The AODA Alliance chose the powerfully symbolic and internationally-celebrated International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, to call on the Senate to hold public hearings early in 2019 on this bill, to listen to the disability community, and to pass amendments needed to make this bill live up to the Federal Government’s stated intentions,” said Lepofsky. “If the Senate does so, the amended bill can return to the House of Commons for a final vote, with the 2019 federal election looming.”

At least five million people in Canada now have a physical, sensory, mental, intellectual, communication, learning or other disability. All others in Canada are bound to get a disability as they age. Especially on the eve of a federal election, no politician can disregard the needs of people with disabilities, the minority of everyone.

Contact:  David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

Twitter hashtags: #AccessibleCanada #accessibility #IDPD #AODA

Key Background Links

For an updated list of the disability organizations that have signed the Open Letter (which is updated as more organizations sign on), visit http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/fda/Open-Letter-30October2018

To read the AODA Alliance’s detailed September 27, 2018 brief to the House of Common’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, showing the full spectrum of amendments that the AODA Alliance itself requested, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/please-tell-the-federal-government-if-you-support-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-that-requests-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act/

For further background on the campaign for a strong national accessibility law in Canada, and to see all the debates on Bill C-81  gathered in one place, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Open Letter Regarding the Need to Strengthen Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act forwarded to the Federal Government by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities

October 30, 2018

Dear Minister Qualtrough and HUMA Committee Members:

We the undersigned commend the Federal Government for committing to enact national accessibility legislation.  As provincial and national disability rights organizations, we write to express significant concerns regarding Bill C-81. The following highlights our key concerns and reflects the concerns raised by our communities before the HUMA Committee. Amendments are essential to effectively remedy these concerns.

  1. Bill C-81 requires timelines. Timelines are essential to ensure that key accessibility measures are taken. Timelines are also required so that progress on accessibility can be measured. In particular, we support recommendations for the Bill to include a timeline for achieving a Canada without barriers, and timelines by which accessibility standards are developed and enacted into law. Timelines are also needed for establishing the infrastructure necessary to implement the Bill.
  1. Bill C-81 imposes no duty on Government to use the powers available in the Bill. We support recommendations to change the word may to shall to ensure that the Government implements key steps for achieving accessibility.
  1. Bill C-81 requires federally-regulated organizations to establish accessibility plans. However, the Bill does not require these to be good plans. It does not require an organization to implement its accessibility plan.
  1. Bill C-81 wrongly splinters the power to make accessibility standards (regulations) and the power to enforce the Bill across numerous Federal agencies. This splintering will make the Bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated, more costly, and will increase delay.
  1. Bill C-81 wrongly gives the Federal Government and various federal agencies the sweeping, unjustified and unaccountable power to exempt organizations from a number of important accessibility obligations. The Government can even exempt itself.
  1. The Bill does not require the Federal Government to use its readily-available power to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate barriers. The Bill must be amended to leverage the federal spending power, in order to promote accessibility.
  1. The Federal Government is the largest organization that will have to obey this legislation. Therefore, the key federal agencies that will develop accessibility standards, oversee and enforce this legislation must be independent of the Federal Government. Under the Bill, they are not. They all report to the Federal Government. We support recommendations for amendments to ensure that CASDO, the Accessibility Commissioner and other key agencies are sufficiently independent.
  1. Bill C-81 does not sufficiently address barriers created by poverty and intersectional discrimination. Nor does it address the unique barriers experienced by Indigenous and First Nations persons with disabilities.
  1. Bill C-81 does not recognize ASL/lsq as the official languages of people who are Deaf.

We believe that if these priority changes are made, among the amendments to Bill C-81, this Bill has the potential to truly advance accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canada. We ask that the Bill be amended to address the concerns and objectives outlined above. These amendments are indispensable to ensure that the Bill achieves its purpose and potential.

In Solidarity,

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

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

In addition to the concerns outlined in this open letter, CDAC recommends that Bill C-81 address communication as a domain across all federal jurisdictions and includes the needs of people with speech and language disabilities. ARCH, CCD and other disability organizations support CDAC’s recommendations.

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