Accessible Canada Act

An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

Sponsor

Kirsty Duncan  Liberal

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Nov. 29, 2018

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment enacts the Accessible Canada Act in order to enhance the full and equal participation of all persons, especially persons with disabilities, in society. This is to be achieved through the realization, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, of a Canada without barriers, particularly by the identification, removal and prevention of barriers.

Part 1 of the Act establishes the Minister’s mandate, powers, duties and functions.

Part 2 of the Act establishes the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization and provides for its mandate and structure and its powers, duties and functions.

Part 3 of the Act authorizes the Accessibility Commissioner to provide the Minister with information, advice and written reports in respect of the administration and enforcement of the Act. It also requires the Accessibility Commissioner to submit an annual report on his or her activities under the Act to the Minister for tabling in Parliament.

Part 4 of the Act imposes duties on regulated entities that include the duty to prepare accessibility plans and progress reports in consultation with persons with disabilities, the duty to publish those plans and reports and the duty to establish a feedback process and to publish a description of it.

Part 5 of the Act provides for the Accessibility Commissioner’s inspection and other powers, including the power to make production orders and compliance orders and the power to impose administrative monetary penalties.

Part 6 of the Act provides for a complaints process for, and the awarding of compensation to, individuals that have suffered physical or psychological harm, property damage or economic loss as the result of — or that have otherwise been adversely affected by — the contravention of provisions of the regulations.

Part 7 of the Act provides for the appointment of the Chief Accessibility Officer and sets out that officer’s duties and functions, including the duty to advise the Minister in respect of systemic or emerging accessibility issues.

Part 8 of the Act authorizes the Governor in Council to make regulations, including regulations to establish accessibility standards and to specify the form of accessibility plans and progress reports. It also provides, among other things, for the designation of the week starting on the last Sunday in May as National AccessAbility Week.

Part 9 of the Act provides for the application of certain provisions of the Act to parliamentary entities, without limiting the powers, privileges and immunities of the Senate, the House of Commons and the members of those Houses.

Parts 10 and 11 of the Act make related and consequential amendments to certain Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Nov. 27, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada
Nov. 27, 2018 Failed Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada (recommittal to a committee)

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to continue talking about a bill that has a lot of hope in it from Canadians across the country who are living with disabilities. I started yesterday into my speech regarding Bill C-81, which is essentially an accessibility act for all Canadians.

The minister said we would be co-operating and working together, and that her department would provide us with the information that was needed in order to ensure the bill actually delivers for Canadians living with disabilities. Stakeholders from across the country, from all sides of this debate, whether they have hearing or sight disabilities or physical or cognitive disabilities, are all saying the same thing, that the bill is not actually doing anything.

There are no teeth in the bill, and there are no dates to deliver teeth or policies or regulations so that we know what is going to be done to actually help people living with disabilities.

One of the things I said at the first debate we had on this subject and repeated at committee was that my hope for the bill was that at the end of it I would be able to call my mother and tell her how her life is going to change after it is passed.

Unfortunately, all I can do today is call her and tell her that within two years a single regulation will be adopted. That single regulation will trigger a five-year time period, and within that five-year time period the government will then have to report back and essentially do an audit of the regulations it has in place. However, we are not going to see any tangible benefits out of this bill on day one.

We have asked why, and the Liberals have said regulations do not need to be in the bill. The staff in the department and the minister have said we need to consult more. That is not good enough. We have had three years of consultation on this subject. Surely at least one regulation could have come into effect with this accessibility legislation.

The minister said yesterday the good news is there are benchmarks. She said that Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia had put very forward-thinking legislation into place, and she commended their legislation. Their legislation had timelines.

She commends it, and she tells us there is a benchmark and we know what we need to do, but then does not include any of it in the bill, saying we might have one regulation within two years. It is just not good enough for Canadians living with disabilities. It is not good enough for Canadians who are living with either cognitive or physical disabilities.

It is incredible when we start thinking about all the things the most vulnerable in our society have to live and cope with. When we look at the issues of the day, such as Canada Post, we see another barrier put up. With Canada Post union employees going on strike, it creates a barrier for people living with disabilities, who perhaps cannot even get outside of their home to go and collect items they may need.

However, the minister does not put anything in place that will change things as of day one. It is not good enough, and stakeholders know it is not good enough.

Stakeholders were telling us they wanted change. That is why roughly 240 amendments were drafted and submitted. That is why so many amendments were adopted. Unfortunately, they were only from the Liberal side.

However, what the minister, the department and the Liberals on the committee could not understand is that stakeholders want to know when things are going to change. They want measurables in place.

Stakeholders do not just want to see a bunch of employees hired, a building gone, rented or bought, and perhaps a promise of “one day”. They are not looking for a promissory note. The stakeholders are looking for real defined benefits, defined regulations, defined policies that will help them in their day-to-day lives, and that is what the Conservative Party, the New Democrats and the Green Party all tried to do at committee to no avail, because, unfortunately, they were not part of the right party. It is disgusting when we think about the throne speech that we had in this House of Commons by the Prime Minister, which said that all members would be respected no matter where they are from, no matter what party they represent. Unfortunately, that is just not the case. The co-operation that the minister has consistently said would be in place was not.

The answers that the minister said she would be getting for members of the opposition never came. The costs related to these changes were never brought forward. However, if all of the benchmarks are in place in Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, surely we know what the costs are to make the changes necessary to make lives better for people in Canada who are living with disabilities.

We either have the information or we do not. Yesterday, we were told we had the information. A few weeks ago, we were told we did not. At committee, we were told that we did not. Even when the Liberals do have the information, they say that it is privileged between the cabinet minister and the staff. These are things as simple as whether any timelines were recommended. We could not even get that. The stakeholders are asking these questions one after another. They want to know and need to understand how and when these actions are going to be taken.

I brought something up at committee that the minister was not actually present for, which is normal, and I did not bring it up in a previous speech, but I would like to make sure that this is brought before the House. What happens if a different government is elected? What happens if there is no minister who is like-minded on this issue?

One of the things the Conservative Party was asking for was to put measurables in place to ensure that there would be follow-through from successive governments. The current government's mandate ends in less than one year. Unfortunately, by not putting measurables in place, by not having a time by which all of these things need to be completed, by not putting a target in place for a barrier-free Canada, we do not know when or how this proposed legislation could fall off the road. This means there is a lack of accountability contained within legislation, because the government wants to avoid being accountable for real results. However, it would not just affect the current government but all governments going forward. If there is not a like-minded government going forward, that means there is a potential for it to completely collapse, and we do not want this to collapse.

We like the fact that there is an accessibility act coming forward. We supported the fact that there was an accessibility act coming forward. We championed an accessibility act coming forward. We requested that it be brought forward as soon as possible when it became very clear that the six-month timeline that the government put in order to provide the legislation to the House for persons in Canada with disabilities was not coming forward. We asked where it was. Why was it not here yet? We knew the work had been done. The Liberals told us they had been consulting for over a year. They told us they were consulting for over two years, and yet still we did not have legislation in front of us.

What happens if it is not the mindset that is provided by the government today, the mindset that is provided in the Conservative benches opposite? There is a real possibility that the intent of this legislation would fall off the road just so the government could avoid the accountability of providing real results for real Canadians living with real disabilities. It is just shameful that a government would walk away from its responsibility to be accountable to Canadians who are taking care of the most vulnerable and accountable to the most vulnerable themselves. It is absolutely shameful.

Going forward, we know that there need to be changes. Therefore, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for the purpose of reconsidering:

a. clauses 5, 11, 18, 23, 111 and 148 with the view to include dates and timelines to ensure that the Bill will advance accessibility in Canada;

b. clauses 15, 75, 93 and 95 with the view to remove permissive language to ensure that accessibility requirements are made and enforced;

c. clauses 46, 55, 59, 64, and 68 with the view to not allow organizations to be exempted from complying with accessibility requirements; and

d. clause 207 with the view to require the government to act.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:25 p.m.
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Kate Young Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his comments on this very important bill. However, I have to take exception to what the hon. member was saying, because he is in fact misleading Canadians. He is saying that this bill has no teeth. It definitely has teeth. He is saying this bill has no timelines. It definitely has timelines. I think we need to underscore how important the amount of input from Canadians with disabilities has been, in order to get where we are today.

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.

Therefore, there are timelines and to say anything different is wrong. You cannot mislead Canadians to think that this does not have teeth. This is a step in the right direction. 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.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if it was you that the member was actually referring to, as I get called out on that all the time. I just wanted to be able to do that with somebody else for once.

In terms of misleading Canadians, I would question who it is who is misleading Canadians.

First, I take exception to that, because it is basically trying to imply that I was lying.

Second, when we look to Patrick Faulkner from Barrier Free Manitoba, Patrick said, “While representing a commendable effort with honourable intentions, we are concerned the bill is deeply flawed. Based on our decade of experience and our careful review, BFM strongly supports the recommendations for significant amendments”. What were those significant amendments? They were for timelines and more teeth in the bill.

We still do not know why the Liberal Party shot down every single attempt to listen to the Canadian stakeholders who asked for more teeth in this bill.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:25 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.

Kate Young

Mr. Speaker, following through on that, I want to talk about common themes. We heard a number of stakeholders at the committee. There were common themes and we did listen. Many of the amendments that came from the NDP and Conservatives were very similar to amendments we put forward. I hope the member will agree we came to an understanding in a number of areas and put forward amendments that had teeth and really moved this legislation forward.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the question was, but certainly I can comment on the statement. No, we do not agree that there were teeth in this bill. That was the whole point of the last 20 minutes I spoke in the House of Commons. There are no teeth and stakeholders are saying there are no teeth. Stakeholders are concerned there are no timelines. The member can stand and say it over and over again, perhaps until blue in the face, but it does not change the fact the legislation does not have any teeth, except maybe a regulation within two years.

I have seen ministers and parliamentary secretaries walk through organizations many times during question period, so let me talk about some of them that are asking for more teeth. They include Ability New Brunswick, Ability Online, Active Aging Canada, Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians Toronto Chapter and AODA Alliance. I have about another 250 of them to go through, when ready.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned by the comments from the Liberal parliamentary secretary suggesting my colleague and friend is misleading people. I spoke to my friend just yesterday about the conversation I had last week with David Lepofsky, probably the most prominent Canadian in terms of disability advocacy. He has the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada, as a constitutional lawyer and disability advocate.

What my friend is saying to the House today is exactly what is being said by people like David Lepofsky. One of the things I heard from him was the fact that there is no end date for accessibility within Bill C-81, no timeline. Ontario has set a 20-year goal of making sure accessibility is paramount. The other thing I heard from him was that there is no clear commitment in Bill C-81 to ensure no infrastructure dollars would go to new projects unless accessibility is at the centre of the project. There are no timelines and no teeth.

The Liberal member is suggesting that my friend is misleading Canadians. This is what disability advocates are asking for. Will my friend comment on the fact that we have an opportunity with Bill C-81 to get it right, if only the Liberals will listen?

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to commit to the member that we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians. It is interesting the member brought up Mr. Lepofsky, because he said the following:

...the bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement...When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you're going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Those are the words of Mr. Lepofsky. It is unfortunate that the Liberal Party did not listen to them.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to sit on the HUMA committee and listen to testimony for Bill C-81. It was very disappointing to see how the government was rushing through testimony of witnesses and clause by clause. We heard alarming things in testimony. For example, we heard that 40% of indigenous people have or will have a disability within their lifetime. Indigenous people are not mentioned whatsoever in the bill. Consultations were done for three years and they failed to recognize indigenous people and failed to recognize timelines. I do not think making departments have one standard within two years is an acceptable “teethy” timeline. There is failed accountability, exemptions and the list goes on.

On this side of the House, we had brought forward an amendment for the government to have a barrier-free Canada. I know my colleague had mentioned a little about this, but how is this going to be measured? How are we going to measure the progress or lack of progress, and how are we going to keep future governments accountable?

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the member for her incredibly hard work on this subject and on the committee. She brought a lot of amendments to the table. Unfortunately there was not a co-operative attitude to put those amendments into place. The member's question actually speaks directly to those amendments.

There are two questions that need to be answered there. I believe when the member says “we”, that she is referring to the government of today. The government of today is going to measure its success by how much money it spends and how many staff members it hires. Those are the only measurables we have seen in the bill.

We cannot measure the results for Canadians living with disabilities by the amount of money the government spends on hiring new staff or finding new offices. We have heard that story before and it does not work.

The second part to that is how are we, as a Conservative government in 2019, going to measure it? We will measure it by the number of lives changed and the number of people who have accessibility to hope and opportunity that they do not have today.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is extremely important that we move forward with a plan to ensure everyone has the right to access the services they need if they have disabilities.

In the communities I represent in the far north, children are continually being denied basic services, like special education and health services. Unless we start with a rights-based focus, and indigenous children have a right to this, they are always going to be nickel-and-dimed by government. The government is always going to say, “Well, this is what we have available.” No other kid puts up with it. Why should we have two standards in the country for indigenous children and other children?

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, the subject matter is incredibly important.

I have the honour to serve in the capacity of the shadow minister for youth. Seeing the disparity between different geographical locations or demographics based on where or how individuals live is incredibly difficult.

Even more than that, we have seen it play out where we have young aboriginal youth denied basic dental surgery. How? Why? This should not be happening in our country. We pay a lot of taxes. We have an incredible country. We believe in taking care of our own, yet it just does not seem to happen. The worst part of it is that this bill does not get us any closer. Well, maybe in two years.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak of historic opportunities lost. An important component of our Canadian population is being sold short.

Canadians and other persons living with disabilities understandably were excited by the government's plan to bring forward Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. After years of neglect by previous governments, they were cautiously optimistic. Alas, once the media has moved on to other issues and Canadians begun to look at the fine print in the bill, they will unfortunately find a lot less to celebrate than the government would have them believe.

As I have stated before on Bill C-81, the bill requires substantial amendments. While we commend the government for tabling it, the bill will need to be altered dramatically in order to become good legislation. I committed to working with the government to provide good faith amendments so the bill could become a historic accessibility legislation that Canada's people living with disabilities deserved.

When the Minister of Accessibility was asked during committee if she would be open to amendment, this was her response:

I definitely want to see this law being the best it possibly can. I don't want to prejudge the outcomes or recommendations of the committee, but I am certainly open to hearing what you all have to say and what stakeholders have to say.

Over the course of eight meetings, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities heard from leading experts and civil society groups on the things that needed to be changed if Bill C-81 were to become good legislation.

In one presentation after another, the committee heard that the bill needed implementation timelines. One such expert was none other than the former Ontario Liberal government minister responsible for shepherding Ontario's Accessibility Act into law. We heard again and again that all of the exemptions for obligated organizations, and the bill was shot through with those, by the way, should be eliminated.

We heard repeatedly that enforcement should be solely in the hands of the accessibility commissioner and not splintered across various organizations, such as the CRTC and CTA, groups that, as was pointed out numerous times, had a storied record of implementing the few accessibility obligations they already had, never mind new ones. However, as the testimony concluded, it was as if no one had uttered a single world. Not one of these recommendations was taken up by the government.

Despite what the minister clearly said, the Liberals had already decided what they were going to do. Despite this, they nevertheless expended the treasury and witness efforts to bring experts to Ottawa to provide testimony that the government had already chosen to ignore. The Liberals ignored the excellent testimony from a former provincial Liberal minister, the highly respected Marie Bountrogianni, a person with actual experience implementing expansive accessibility legislation.

Let us hear some of this. Ms. Bountrogianni said:

During the consultation phase, we studied Great Britain's Disability Discrimination Act and were taught three critical lessons. We would need a clear deadline for an accessible Ontario. There would need to be regulations established through which to enforce the law, and public education would be key for creating awareness about the bill.

When I was studying them, it was from their challenges. I don't want to use the word “mistakes” because they were pioneers. They were Great Britain, Australia and the United States. They told me, “Have a timeline, definitely have timelines.”

How can this testimony be ignored? It is a shame. I get frustrated just thinking about it. All of the expertise and people so succinctly explaining to us what needed to be done to bolster the legislation was ignored.

I cannot stress enough that another critical issue is the way in which Bill C-81 splinters the power to enforce the legislation among four federal organizations: the accessibility commissioner, the Canadian Transportation Agency, also known as the CTA; the CRTC, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission; and the tribunal that regulates federal employment. This snarl of enforcement in administration would result in very similar regulations being enacted by the different agencies involved, rather than by one single agency.

The duplication would not just risk inconsistencies, it would create them, causing even further delays. The predictable result is the real possibility that some sectors of the economy will have these regulations ready before other sectors. This bill should be looking to eliminate the interdepartmental patchwork system that is already in place, rather than making it more complex. After all, that is the purpose of national strategies, of national legislation, which this is supposed to be fulfilling.

Again, this splintered formula is a confusion. The government's response was to say this, and it boggles the mind. This is from the testimony of a government representative:

“We'll have a policy that there will be no wrong door. Whichever agency you go to, no matter how confusing it is to figure it out—and believe me, it is confusing—if you go in the wrong door, we'll send [the complaint] to the right door. Problem solved.”

Once again, there is not really a clear understanding by the government of the lived reality of people living with disabilities having to advocate for themselves and access these so-called doors. The purpose of the accessibility commissioner is laid out for us. This should be perfect synergy, and the government has chosen to ignore that, unfortunately.

The esteemed David Lepofsky, who has been mentioned in the chamber already by my hon. colleagues, is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians Disabilities Act Alliance. He points out that the problem is not solved at all:

...because all that does is fix the problem of which door you go in. It does not solve the substantial problem that happens once you're inside that door. It means we have to lobby four agencies to get them up to the necessary level of expertise. It means we have to learn four different sets of procedures...It means we have to go to agencies that [have little to no] expertise in disability and accessibility.

This would be the expertise we would envision an accessibility commissioner would be fulfilling. This is what all of these organizations, advocacy groups and experts, with lived experience in the community as a person living with a different ability, understood. They understood that an accessibility commissioner would achieve this very basic sentiment they had, because they were worn out from having to advocate. It would have been the one-stop shop. It would have been cleaner.

From a bureaucratic perspective, it would have been a lot cleaner to give one concise responsibility to the new accessibility commissioner, but rather, we are going to hold them back and it is going to be approached in four different ways. For example, it will be said that this is not someone's territory, but someone else's. It is just going to invite more chaos. I want to go back to the fact that it would make far more sense to simply mandate the new accessibility commissioner with all of the accessibility enforcement under this act.

The design of this legislation, which splinters responsibility among agencies, only serve two interests: first, protecting bureaucratic turf; and second, easing back on the expectations on obligated organizations so that they can have weaker standards, slower implementation and flimsy enforcement. That is not consistent with the federal government's commendable motivations and intentions under this legislation. It does not make sense. It is not consistent.

Before I heard my hon. colleague across the way table his amendment, I anticipated tabling an amendment of my own at the end of my speech today. For the record, I will explain what it is in the time I have remaining, so that all Canadians who are listening and following this debate understand that a last ditch effort was made by both opposition parties to revisit Bill C-81 to give it some teeth.

Today, in a last ditch effort to try to help Bill C-81 become the kind of bill the government professes it to be, but which it clearly is not, I offered a good faith amendment about implementing timelines and having enforcement so that we could go back to committee and look at implementing those timelines. Eliminating exemptions would be another one that we would need to do. I expect the government to reject any such amendment, just as it rejected the nearly 120 other ones that were brought forward at committee in complete good faith by opposition parties. I want to take this last chance to do the right thing and be on the record as having done so.

The NDP has long been committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. It has been our long-standing position that all of government, every budget, every policy, every regulation and every grant should be viewed through a disability lens. Our ultimate goal has always been to help foster a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. This cannot even begin to happen until all of our institutions are open and completely accessible to everyone.

The NDP has supported the establishment of a Canadians with disabilities act for many years. The call for a CDA can be found in our 2015 platform. The language is important: it is the Canadians with disabilities act.

Any accessibility bill tabled by the government should essentially be enabling legislation for Canada's obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Canada ratified this convention in 2010 and a Canadians with disabilities act would include language consistent with implementing this convention.

Until now, Canada has done nothing to bring our laws into conformity with the convention. I tabled Motion No. 56 in this very chamber, calling on the government to implement these obligations.

The convention sets out the legal obligations on states to promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities. It does not create new rights. There are a number of principles and articles within the CRPD that are extremely important to people with disabilities. These principles address rights such as the ability to live independently, freedom from exploitation and violence, the right to an adequate standard of living, social protections and more.

Rather than considering disability an issue of medicine, charity or dependency, the convention challenges people worldwide to understand disability as a human rights issue. It establishes that discrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the rights, inherent dignity and worth of the human person.

The convention covers many areas where obstacles can arise, such as physical access to buildings, roads and transportation and access to information through written and electronic communications. The convention also aims to reduce stigma and discrimination, which are often why people with disabilities are excluded from education, employment and health and other services.

It is important here to note that the convention is our ideal. It is up to governments to bridge the distance between these ideals and the lived reality of people with disabilities. One such bridge is supposed to be Bill C-81. That is the bridge we are debating here today.

A major lapse on the part of the government is that it did not include language in Bill C-81 requiring all federal government laws, policies and programs to be studied through a disability lens. In other words, the language of the bill is not in keeping with our obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, so we would still need more legislation to bridge that gap, which we anticipated we were closing. Now, we are taking a step that is basically a false gesture toward doing that.

One of the things I wanted to really get into is that this disability law lens is a strange omission. I say this because we find it is hard to create a lived reality on the ground if all of us who are developing policy and legislation are not using that disability lens.

One way the disability lens can be used is to analyze public policy. One way to make sure of that is to ask the following. Does the policy view disabled people as members of a minority group with special needs, or does it view disability as one of many variables in the population, and thus aim to structure society to ensure universal access and coverage? This is such a profound aspect of what our accessibility legislation needs to be able to do.

In seeing my time left, I am improvising a bit here. My understanding of our procedure is that once an amendment has been tabled, I cannot table another one. However, I would just like people to have a general idea of the text of what my amendment would have been if tabled, even though it is very similar to my hon. colleague's. This amendment is my last plea on behalf of people with disabilities and those of us who care about them, for us to go back and get Bill C-81 right.

I would have moved that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, be not now read the third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for the purpose of eliminating exemptions for obligated organizations and including implementation timelines.”

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I look at Bill C-81 as a missed opportunity. It was a chance for us to all work together at committee, which I think was what the minister wanted to see. She wanted to see good amendments brought forward by all parties.

I think it is no surprise that the bulk of the more than 200 amendments to Bill C-81 that were brought forward were almost word for word from the NDP, the Green Party, and the Conservative Party. That highlights some of the issues with this bill.

There is one area that I would like my colleague to talk about, and we heard this from a lot of stakeholders. It was really disappointing that she did not have a chance to talk about this in her presentation. Here I refer to the concerns we heard from stakeholders that Bill C-81 is a two-tiered system with the number of exemptions that are in it.

What it does is to ask federally regulated private sector businesses to adhere to the very minimal standards and accountability in Bill C-81, but every federal department can ask for an exemption. That means that some areas will have to abide by Bill C-81 and that the federal government will not have to.

Every stakeholder we heard from wanted consistency and wanted to eliminate those exemptions. I would like to hear the member's comments and thoughts on the exemptions included in Bill C-81.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his diligence in chairing those meetings.

As a product of circumstance, we were all there in the best interests of a vulnerable community that has long anticipated that the experts on this would be heard. Maybe indulgently, maybe naively, I thought that the very candid witness testimony by a former minister in a provincial Liberal government, who said that we have to have timelines, would work.

It is true that some of our amendments were very similar to ones put forward by the government. Let me give an example. We changed “Canadians with disabilities” to “all persons with disabilities”. Some of it these were just wording changes.

The substantive amendments that we as legislators recognized needed to be made would have given these powers to the accessibility commissioner, to the chief officer, and to the new standards regulator. That was not done. There is no accountability to Parliament. It is done by government. It is actually very indulgent, and will create and manifest this two-tiered system that my hon. colleague does indeed describe.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her intervention today and for speaking about this very important bill.

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?