Thank you, Chair and committee members, for inviting Canada Post to participate in this important discussion on Bill C-81.
My name is Jessica McDonald. As you said, I'm chair of the board of directors. I'm joined today by my colleague, Susan Margles, senior vice-president of corporate affairs. It's a pleasure to be here today and to speak to the committee.
Identifying, removing and preventing physical and non-visible barriers in the workplace and society is an incredibly important issue for our country, but also for Canada Post. We fully support Bill C-81 as proposed and embrace the goals of the legislation.
Canada Post recognizes the significance of this legislation to Canadian citizens, the Government of Canada and parliamentarians, including our minister, who is a champion for accessibility and removing barriers. We also know that as a Crown corporation we can and must always do more in this area. Identifying, removing and preventing barriers is a continuous evolution. Canada Post takes very seriously its obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as the Employment Equity Act.
We strive to ensure that our services and facilities are accessible to all Canadians. In the next few minutes, I will outline our approach for helping to improve accessibility for our customers and employees.
First, it's important to understand the size and scope of our operations. More than 50,000 people, full- and part-time employees, work for Canada Post, not including our subsidiaries. That makes us one of Canada's largest employers. We have the country's largest retail network, with nearly 6,200 post offices across Canada. Most of these are operated in urban centres, but many are operated out of very diverse locations, such as pharmacies, corner stores, or people's homes.
Often in remote reaches of the country, we've learned from experience that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work when it comes to providing services. We deliver to more than 16 million residential and business addresses in every corner of the country. We're proud to partner with small businesses across Canada, and we understand their importance to the Canadian economy.
We recognize the need for our services to be as accessible as possible to help small business owners and customers with disabilities. It's our job to serve Canadians, and we're proud to do so. Because of our size and scope, we're keenly aware of the importance of removing barriers for Canadians with physical and non-visible disabilities. We understand that the nature of disabilities can be as diverse as the people who experience them.
In supporting the legislation, we also know it will take some time to fully grasp how it will affect Canada Post. We're looking forward to better understanding the impacts and the opportunities from Bill C-81. Being a large organization with legacy infrastructure in communities across Canada, we recognize it will require significant effort and resources to make improvements going forward, but we are absolutely committed to respecting the legislation and regulations, once adopted.
As you may recall, the Government of Canada launched a review of Canada Post to better position us for the future. Based on feedback from the public and stakeholders, the government announced a new vision for Canada Post earlier this year. One of those pillars was to enhance our existing accessible delivery program. Canada Post is committed to ensuring that all customers, including seniors and persons with disabilities, have access to their mail and parcels. This specifically includes persons living on first nations reserves. We have a dedicated team in place to respond to each customer's needs on a case-by-case basis and together determine appropriate accommodation options. Again, we know we can do more and improve our processes.
We take our duty to remove barriers and accommodate disabilities and mobility issues very seriously. We're working diligently to ensure that our operations and services respect Canadians' right to dignity, autonomy and privacy, and that everyone has equal opportunity to access our services and compete for a job.
In all aspects of our operations, when a situation of inaccessibility is brought to our attention, we take action to address the situation as quickly as possible.
For Canada Post, Bill C-81 is an opportunity to improve accessibility to our services and facilities to meet the needs and expectations of an aging population. The 2016 census showed that for the first time in Canadian history, seniors now outnumber children in Canada. There are now nearly six million seniors in Canada, and by 2031, close to one in four Canadians could be 65 years of age or older. We absolutely recognize the need to adjust our operations accordingly.
We have also been working hard on creating an accessibility advisory panel. This panel will provide ongoing input and be a forum for dialogue that will help us make delivery services more accessible to persons with disabilities and to seniors. We're very delighted that some leading experts and strong advocates with lived experience have agreed to sit on the panel and take on this important role. We expect to announce the accessibility advisory panel very soon.
I wanted to quickly share some of the other services we currently provide that make it easier for people with disabilities to access our postal products and services.
In our retail locations, examples include access ramps, electronic doors, accessible payment devices and the welcoming of service animals.
To support the visually impaired, we provide a literature for the blind service that allows specific items used by blind persons to be mailed for free, such as materials impressed in Braille and sound recordings, such as CDs. For the hearing-impaired, we have a dedicated toll-free TTY customer service line. We also provide instruction to our employees on how to deal with customers with visual or hearing impairments.
We are also committed to making our website accessible to all Canadians. Some of the accessibility features include keyboard shortcut options for navigating without a mouse, an ability to change text size, and quick-access links.
We also have a disability management team. Canada Post provides training for employees on how to accommodate physical and non-visible disabilities in the workplace. Our collective agreements with our unions all address accessibility. We collaborate with unions and have joint decision-making on how to remove barriers. Each union also has a specific committee with Canada Post on respecting human rights.
As a major federal employer, service provider, and procurer of services, Canada Post recognizes that this legislation and its regulations will impact many aspects of our organization going forward. The legislation will require us to identify, remove, and prevent barriers in six key areas identified in the bill.
Recognizing that we have much work to do in this area, I also want to note that Canada Post is in the process of hiring a director of accessibility policy. This is an important step as we work to improve accessibility at Canada Post.
We know that this work will require a lot of resources, but as I mentioned earlier, we welcome this important legislation and we embrace its goals.
We hope that our efforts and continued commitment to doing more demonstrate the importance Canada Post places on improving accessibility for our customers and employees.
On behalf of Canada Post, I'd like to thank the committee for inviting us to appear.
We applaud the government and members of the committee for working to remove barriers and improve accessibility for all Canadians through Bill C-81. This is an important conversation, and we are very happy to contribute to it.
Our approach to improving accessibility has evolved over many years and aligns with the goals outlined in the bill. We look forward to further understanding what the legislation will mean for Canada Post going forward.
We would be very happy to take your questions.