Evidence of meeting #119 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was disabilities.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

David Lepofsky  Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
Christopher Sutton  National Executive Director, Canadian Hard of Hearing Association
Angela Bonfanti  Vice-President, Ontario and Quebec, CNIB Foundation
Robbi Weldon  Program Lead, Peer Support and Leisure, CNIB Foundation
Diane Finley  Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC
Gordie Hogg  South Surrey—White Rock, Lib.
David Arnot  Chief Commissioner, Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission
Frank Folino  President, Canadian Association of the Deaf
Kerry Diotte  Edmonton Griesbach, CPC
James Roots  Executive Director, Canadian Association of the Deaf

October 25th, 2018 / 8 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

I call the meeting to order.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to today's meeting on Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

The objective of today's meeting is to continue the committee's thorough review of this bill. I'd like to take a moment to remind both those participating in the proceedings, as well as those observing the proceedings of the committee in person and on video that the committee adopted a motion on September 18 that included instructions for the clerk to explore options to allow for the full participation of all witnesses and members of the public on this study.

As a result, the committee has made arrangements to make all meetings in relation to the study of Bill C-81 as accessible as possible in a variety of ways. This includes providing sign language interpretation and near real-time closed captioning in the room.

Please note that both American sign language and Quebec sign language are being offered to those in our audience. Screens displaying the near real-time closed captioning have also been set up. The sign language interpreters in the room are also being videorecorded for the eventual broadcast of the meeting on ParlVU via the committee's website. We would ask that those in the room remain seated as much as possible during the meeting so that everyone in the audience can clearly see the sign language interpretation. If a member of the audience requires assistance at any time, please notify a member of the staff or the committee clerk.

I would just like to add that we have found throughout these meetings that at times witnesses and committee members alike will often speak at a pace that is a little too fast. I will be interrupting if the interpreters give me either a thumbs up or a thumbs down if we are going a bit fast, so I apologize in advance. Please take your time with your opening remarks and in the questions and answers.

I'd like to welcome this panel here today. First of all, from Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, we are pleased to have Mr. David Lepofsky, chair. He is joined by Faith Cameletti, a student from Osgoode Hall Law School, and Connor Campbell, also a student from Osgoode Hall Law School. Welcome to all three of you.

From the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, we have Mr. Christopher Sutton, national executive director. Welcome, sir.

From the CNIB Foundation, we have Angela Bonfanti, vice-president, Ontario and Quebec, and Robbi Weldon, program lead, peer support and leisure. Thank you as well for being here today.

We're going to get started this morning with Mr. Lepofsky. Go ahead, sir.

8 a.m.

David Lepofsky Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Good morning.

Our society has for too many years—indeed, decades—been designed on the ridiculous assumption that for the most part it's there for people without disabilities. It's not that people wanted us excluded, but we have just never been part of the thinking, much of the time, when our buildings are built, our public transit is created, our workplaces are designed, and the goods and services we use are designed and sold.

It's a ridiculous idea, because more than five million of us now have a disability—but even that number underestimates us, because, you see, every one of us in this room, and every voter who voted for you or against you, either has a disability now or is bound to get one later in their life. We are the minority of everyone, and no politician or political party can go soft on the minority of everyone.

We commend the federal government for committing to bring forward Bill C-81, and for undertaking a good public consultation on it. However, the bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement. The groups that have come before you have provided a road map of how to fix it, and that can be done. 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.

We urge you to think about what you would say to you, 20 years from now. If you don't already have a disability now but you get one later, what would you come back in time and say about your reluctance to support strong amendments? We urge you to come together and unanimously support strong amendments.

You've heard many groups focusing on very common themes. Our top priorities are in a brief that is being circulated to you in Braille and in a brief that spells much more out in detail. Let me use my time to focus on two, which other groups have supported, but they have not been discussed as much at this committee.

First, Bill C-81 wrongly splinters the creation of accessibility standards and their enforcement among multiple federal agencies. This is a formula for a weak bill. Please unsplinter it. This bill provides that accessibility standards can be enacted—and that's good—but it divides the power to make them among the federal cabinet, which should have all that power; the Canadian Transportation Agency for transportation providers; and the CRTC for broadcasters and telecom companies.

That is a formula for confusion, contradiction, delay and weak standards. All standards should be made by one body alone, and that is the politically accountable federal cabinet. Giving the power over public transit to the Canadian Transportation Agency will have the effect of weakening the measures you take on transportation. That agency, like the CRTC, has no demonstrated expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities. Moreover, both the CTA and the CRTC have substantially inadequate track records in the use of the power on accessibility that they've had for years.

If you go to folks who have a bad track record, you have a predictable future of more bad track records. Let me give you one example that says it all.

The Canadian Transportation Agency has had the power to make accessibility standards for people with disabilities in federally regulated transportation providers for over three decades. They're so excited and so eager to use that power that they've made absolutely none. Giving them that power now can give us no enthusiasm that they'll be any more willing to use it and to use it well in the future.

You might think I'd be upset that they haven't used it, but in fact I'm happy they haven't used it, because the legislation now—and as this bill is written, the legislation in the future—would provide that if they make a federal accessibility standard, it can actually cut back on the rights that the legislation now provides, because once a regulation is made, it is fully dispositive of the right to accommodation under the transportation legislation. That is really bad.

We need you to first remove that feature in the Transportation Act so that a standard, if enacted, can only extend our rights and never cut them back. Second, we need you to concentrate all power to make accessibility standards in the federal cabinet.

As well, this bill splinters the power to enforce this legislation among four federal organizations: the accessibility commissioner, the CTA, the CRTC and the tribunal that regulates federal employment. Again, this is a formula for confusion.

The federal government response to date has been inadequate. It simply said, “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 you to the right door. Problem solved.” No, it isn't, 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, because they may all use different procedures once you get inside the door. It means we have to go to agencies that may not have any expertise in disability and accessibility.

It makes far more sense to simply mandate the new accessibility commissioner with all accessibility enforcement under this act. The fact is simply that the design of this bill, splintering among these agencies, serves only two interests: the bureaucracies that want to preserve their turf and those obligated organizations that would rather this law have weaker standards, slower implementation and weaker enforcement. That is not consistent with the federal government's commendable motivations and intentions under this legislation.

Let me conclude by turning to one other point we'd like to emphasize. Members of this committee have asked what could be done to ensure that on day one, this law will make a real difference. Here's the answer, and it's not now in this bill.

This bill should be amended in accordance with the proposals in our brief to ensure that whenever federal money is spent, it can never be used to create a new barrier or perpetuate an old barrier against people with disabilities. It's commendable that the bill allows the making of access standards for federal procurement of goods and services, but that's not the only way the federal government spends money. The federal government right now spends a lot of money on infrastructure, and not only federal infrastructure, but money is transferred to communities or provinces for local projects such as public transit, hospitals and so on. We urge that any federal spending on procurement, infrastructure, loans or grants to business or otherwise have strong accessibility strings attached, monitored and enforced, so that federal money is never used to make things worse for us.

On day one, that could start making a difference.

In conclusion, I have a really strong sense of personal history today, because 38 years ago, when the Charter of Rights was only a proposal, it did not include equality for people with disabilities. I had the privilege of being one of the many people who came here to argue that the charter be amended to include equality for people with disabilities.

Working together, we succeeded then. Working together now, we can succeed with this bill, which is strong on intention but weak on enforcement and implementation. We now have the opportunity to work together with you again to create a strong law that will make the victory of 38 years ago—equality for people with disabilities—not only a legal guarantee, but a reality in the lives of all of us.

Thank you very much.

8:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much, sir.

Now we will hear from Christopher Sutton, national executive director of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. You have seven minutes, sir.

8:15 a.m.

Christopher Sutton National Executive Director, Canadian Hard of Hearing Association

Good morning, and thank you for the honour of inviting the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association here today as you learn more about Bill C-81.

The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association was established in 1982 and is the leading consumer advocacy organization representing the needs of nearly four million Canadians with hearing loss. With a network from coast to coast to coast, we work co-operatively with professionals, service providers, government and others to provide life-enhancing information, support and advocacy to ensure that people with hearing loss can overcome barriers in all aspects of their lives.

My name is Christopher Sutton. I'm the national executive director of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. Like most of my colleagues here before you today, I've had the privilege to work on behalf of people with disabilities and have worked in corporate, not-for-profit and government sectors. Even with my advanced level of education and professional success, as a person who lives with an invisible disability, I live with barriers on a daily basis.

The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association supports Bill C-81. While we acknowledge that laws and standards are only one part of breaking down barriers, we see this as a positive step towards ensuring that everyone can live in a barrier-free society. As an individual who has lived in the United States, where they have the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am hopeful about what this legislation will accomplish.

The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association congratulates the Government of Canada for its work on developing this legislation and the process they undertook to consult with people with disabilities to ensure that this legislation meets our needs. Our organization was a partner in this consultation process and continues our work through our engagement with the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance. We are pleased to see that so many of the recommendations we provided are included in this critical legislation.

We see some areas in which there could be improvements to ensure that this legislation is the best possible and allows Canada to lead globally in making sure we live in a barrier-free society. As one of the partner organizations working with the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, we support the recommendations that were provided to this committee and would like to stress the following recommendations.

First, regarding timelines for achieving a barrier-free Canada, our recommendations are similar to those used in Ontario with the AODA. With the goal of having a barrier-free Ontario by 2025, we recommend that specific timelines and deadlines be built into the legislation so that people have a vision and a goal to work towards. We know a barrier-free society will not happen overnight, but we have a vision and a commitment that's critical. We believe that specific timelines and deadlines must be created for establishing the infrastructure to implement the act. This also needs to be done for the Accessibility Standards Development Organization, for standards and regulation committees, for the chief accessibility officer and office, and for the accessibility commissioner and office. We also need to make sure that we set timelines and deadlines for studying and implementing these standards and regulations and for making progress reports.

Second, we recommend that disabled people have access to communication accommodations and supports. While most people think of accommodations and supports as access to a building with a ramp and so forth, it's really much more than that, and understanding a fully accessibility-built environment is very important. We strongly encourage the use and adoption of innovative solutions that provide access to communication accommodations and support. These communication accommodations include things such as CART captioning, ensuring that service counters, conference rooms and other facilities are looped for those with hearing assistive devices, text communications, sign language, and other forms of communication supports. Communication and supports must be made mandatory through standards and regulations.

Third, we recommend that funding be made available so that people with disabilities and the organizations that work to represent them are properly compensated for their contributions to the design and implementation of this legislation. Too often, people with disabilities are asked for their expertise and lived experience and are given no financial compensation for their contributions. Funding is also needed to develop tool kits, guidelines, training and education programs, and other things to ensure a successful implementation of this legislation.

Also, additional funds need to be provided to organizations like mine that work on behalf of people with disabilities, so that we can continue to provide resources to these individuals so that they can learn more about their disabilities and how to live barrier-free lives.

Probably one of the most important things is to create a culture of inclusion and equity. All people employed by the federal public sector, including staff, must engage in intensive education programs to ensure that they understand and demonstrate inclusive attitudes. It's important that we show at all levels that accessibility is critical. All employees should be examples and role models for creating a culture of inclusion and equity. We must develop policies and practices that must be set and followed and that change attitudes. We also need to have people with disabilities at all aspects and levels of employment. People with disabilities need to be present, and they need to be seen so that we're part of this change.

While I am here to address disability issues as a whole, and not specifically hearing loss, I do want to bring your attention to the rising number of people with hearing loss and the associated economic burden, which causes a problem in Canada and globally. Hearing loss has rarely been an issue that captures public support, and while some strategies for hearing health care have been implemented in some provinces, awareness and resource allocations for hearing heath care remain scarce. This is of concern. Unaddressed hearing loss puts affected Canadians at significant risk for unemployment and for developing other serious conditions, such as depression and anxiety, at further cost to our health care system.

You may be already aware. Last week I provided you and your office with an invitation to have an opportunity to address these issues in a separate conversation, and I look forward to receiving your response.

The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association is committed to continuing its work with this committee and the government as they develop this legislation to ensure that it meets the needs of all people with disabilities.

I thank you again, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

8:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much, sir.

Now, from the CNIB Foundation, we have Angela Bonfanti, vice-president, Ontario and Quebec, and Robbi Weldon, program lead, peer support and leisure.

You have seven minutes, please.

8:20 a.m.

Angela Bonfanti Vice-President, Ontario and Quebec, CNIB Foundation

Good morning.

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks for giving CNIB an opportunity to speak here today.

As you mentioned, I am joined here by my colleague, Robbi Weldon, who is our program lead for peer support and leisure for eastern Ontario, and she'll be sharing this presentation with me today.

I'd like to start off with a brief overview of CNIB's history and why we are here today. We were founded in 1918. We just celebrated our 100th anniversary. We were founded by wounded war veterans who were coming back and looking for help for those who had lost significant sight through their journey serving Canada in the war.

Throughout the last 100 years, CNIB has done a number of things that have helped to fill gaps that are around societal inequities that people with sight loss face every day. Employment is the one that we have tried and tried again and have yet to succeed on.

We believe that a piece to this puzzle is really around the accessibility of our procedures, of our legislation and of our buildings, and, to Christopher's point, not just the bricks and mortar and the physical space. Our presentation here today will focus on what we mean when we say “accessible” and what this means for people with sight loss.

Today, CNIB's mission is to have a bolder, brighter future. We are an advocacy organization that is here to boost engagement in the world of work, to unleash the power of technology, and to drive achievement and equality for the next century of work that we are going to be in.

I'm going to turn it over to Robbi now to present her portion of the presentation.

8:20 a.m.

Robbi Weldon Program Lead, Peer Support and Leisure, CNIB Foundation

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for having me here today.

My name is Robbi Weldon, and I am an employee of CNIB. I also am a person with sight loss since the age of 15. I am a four-time Paralympic athlete and mother of two children. Although I race 95 kilometres an hour downhill on the tandem, my biggest fear is crossing the street each day to catch the bus to work.

As said, physical barriers are a large part of the barriers that persons with blindness or partial sight face on a daily basis, but stronger than that are the access to information and the attitudinal barriers.

As a person with sight loss, I don't use a guide dog and often don't use a cane. It's an invisible disability, having to explain myself to persons in service industries. For example, I was coming back from a World Cup in May to the Toronto Pearson International Airport through customs, and I used the accessibility lane. I approached the worker in customs, and he reprimanding me for being in the accessible lane, even though I had identified that I had vision loss. Those are the types of attitudinal barriers we face.

We're here today to promote the idea that beyond legislation, there's a great deal of funding required on an ongoing basis to educate and bring awareness to Canadians at all levels about the importance of changing those attitudes and removing barriers, whether they be physical or, as I said, access to information and attitudinal barriers.

Thank you.

8:25 a.m.

Vice-President, Ontario and Quebec, CNIB Foundation

Angela Bonfanti

As part of this consultative process since 2016, whether it be through government consultation, public town halls, thematic round tables, the Prime Minister's youth forum, or an online survey, we at CNIB applaud the federal government for this legislation. CNIB was also part of two disability consultative groups funded by the federal government to consult with Canadians with disabilities from coast to coast to coast.

After Bill C-81 was tabled this June, CNIB analyzed the legislation, and we conducted our own nationwide survey on the legislation with people who have sight loss and with sight-loss advocates. Our recommendations and testimony today are based on what we heard over the past three years and are also based on our experience over the last 100 years.

As my colleague Robbi started to indicate, CNIB believes that substantial amendments are needed to strengthen Bill C-81. We agree with many of the recommendations that other disability organizations have brought forward. We would like to highlight a few recommendations we believe are key to a truly barrier-free Canada.

We agree with the need to create a new accessibility commissioner and a chief accessibility officer. As David Lepofsky has mentioned, there is a fear among Canadians with sight loss that a splintering effect will make enforcement and compliance with this legislation, future regulations and standards more onerous for Canadians with disabilities. We advise against further creation of bureaucratic processes in fear that a bottleneck, as it has in the past, may occur when the office of the chief accessibility officer is up and running. We have many years of experience advising and making structures more accessible and straightforward. We urge the government to consult with us when these new offices are being set up.

We believe that to create a society free of barriers, products and goods that are accessed by taxpaying Canadians should be accessible to all. That is why CNIB urges the scope of Bill C-81 to be broadened to require the federal government to procure materials, technologies and services. This will also help to facilitate a shift in the private sector, which will want to do business with the federal government and hopefully by extension do better business themselves.

Frankly, many procured materials are inaccessible. If the government creates a procurement strategy with accessibility in mind, everyone will benefit.

As Minister Qualtrough currently has ministerial oversight regarding this legislation and Canada's procurement strategy, she is in a prime position to ensure barriers are removed.

For example, point-of-sale terminals are often inaccessible for persons with sight loss and other disabilities. They have to ask a stranger to indicate whether they've put in the right PIN. They have to give a stranger their personal financial information to ensure that their groceries are bought and paid for. If the government procured a point-of-sale terminal that was accessible and mandated that all point-of-sale terminals used by the federal government, such as those used at Canada Post, were accessible, this could greatly shift the use of point-of-sale terminals that non-federally regulated entities utilize.

The world is changing quickly. New technologies are being created daily, and old practices are being modernized. Organizations and companies are changing the way business is done. People can print wirelessly. Documents are now saved on the cloud instead of on wired networks and in filing cabinets.

I hold in my hand a smart phone, something many federal organizations already provide for their staff. Robbi and I have used the same piece of technology to help us get our jobs done. This is through the use of artificial intelligence and other applications that are built into this device. It's not the only solution, but it is an economical solution, and frankly, it is already being done.

Finally, if the federal government wants a society without barriers, then all future legislation, policy, regulations and funding should be reviewed through a disability lens: “nothing for us without us”. This is consistent with the federal government's gender-based analysis plus that was done in the past few budgets. As Canadians get older and live older, they are more likely to develop a disability. The government's policies, legislation and regulations should not perpetuate further barriers.

The sight-loss population unemployment rate is three times the size of the national average. We believe this could be key to helping us to finally close that gap in employment.

With the amendments stated today, as well as others you have heard from the disability community, Bill C-81 can be a strong piece of legislation and ultimately create an accessible Canada.

We thank the committee for inviting CNIB to appear before you, and we look forward to answering your questions. Thank you.

8:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much. Thank you to all of you.

We're going to get started right away with questions.

First up, we have MP Finley.

8:30 a.m.

Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Lepofsky, I would like to thank you for your very eloquent and impassioned speech. I found it enlightening and very motivating.

One concern I have with this bill is the difference between how federally regulated departments or agencies are treated and how the private sector that is under federal regulation will be treated in terms of their accountability, exemptions and enforcement. I'm wondering if you can comment on that, please.

8:30 a.m.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

David Lepofsky

We think there should be one regime for enforcement for everybody. It makes it easier. It makes it fair. It makes it cheaper. It makes it work.

We also propose and recognize that you don't set one-size-fits-all rules in the design of any accessibility standard. The requirements and the timelines will vary depending on the size and capacity of the organization. That's an accepted requirement for designing an accessibility standard, and that can be done under this act. It is rendered far more complicated if who you are, which agency you are and what kind of work you're doing dictates which rules you have to comply with, and the timelines, and who you go to for enforcement.

The best way to achieve what you are talking about is a uniform process for enforcement under the accessibility commissioner—not splintered. It is one body that sets all accessibility standards. That's the federal cabinet.

Believe it or not, with the way this bill is designed right now, it's not cabinet that gets the final say when it comes to transportation barriers; it's the CTA. If the CTA doesn't propose the standard or adopt it, Canada can't approve. it. Why should the CTA have a veto over cabinet? Last time I checked, we vote for parties who form the cabinet. We don't vote for the CTA.

8:30 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC

Diane Finley

Thank you.

One part of this bill talks about having, after three years of consultation to get this far, several more years of consultation to determine the standards that should be applied. We had the Canadian council for disabilities here. They say they already have standards. VIA Rail consulted them when they were planning their renovations, remodelling and retrofits. Around the world, different places have brought in standards to varying degrees of success.

Do you believe that another several years are required, or do the standards that are needed already exist?

8:35 a.m.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

David Lepofsky

I know your party has raised concerns about this, and respectfully, we don't agree. Let me explain why. I urge you to reconsider your concern.

There should be timelines for action so that consultations don't go on forever. On the other hand, we do not have any good accessibility standards in Canada in the major areas we're discussing. We have building codes, but respectfully, they're all somewhere between lousy and close to lousy when it comes to accessibility. They're up to date as of maybe early last century. If you build a building that complies with the Ontario Building Code, you can readily be creating barriers in that building. We've released videos—which have gone viral—documenting this in brand new buildings using public money.

It's the same when it comes to any number of other areas. The standards in Ontario—and my coalition has been in the lead lobbying on these—are, in all cases, helpful but woefully inadequate. There are some areas internationally where there are standards that can be learned from and adopted, but we do need a process here whereby we look at what's been done here or elsewhere, decide where they're helpful and replicate that, or decide they're too weak and do better. You can't do that at the drop of a hat. That doesn't mean doing it for ridiculously long timelines, but we need to take the time to get it right.

I know there has been some criticism that this bill is just mandating a bunch of new consultations. In fairness, I think that overstates the case. It's not that the standards are out there and we can just copy and paste them and they're ready go. Too often, that's just not the case.

8:35 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC

Diane Finley

Are there any jurisdictions or authorities in particular that you would recommend be consulted in this process?

8:35 a.m.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

David Lepofsky

The two places I know where they are the furthest ahead in certain respects are the U.S. for certain and, in some areas, the state of Israel. We haven't surveyed all around the world to be in a position to give you a comprehensive review, but I know that Israel puts in stronger requirements than Ontario does. They have more enforcement officials for accessibility in the tiny state of Israel, with a few other problems on their plate, than in the entire province of Ontario.

8:35 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC

Diane Finley

I'll pass.

8:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Up next, we have Bobby Morrissey, please.

8:35 a.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Thank you, Chair.

I would like to follow up with Mr. Lepofsky on the discussion you were just having. You made the comment that the focus should be on timelines for action. I'm interpreting your answer, and correct me if I'm wrong, to mean that simply putting timelines in place that have to be achieved may not get what you want. The bill should focus on implementing timelines for accessibility targets. Could you just expand on your position or your statement on timelines for action?

8:35 a.m.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

David Lepofsky

Certainly. Thank you.

Timelines are needed in two contexts.

First, the bill is lacking an ultimate deadline for achieving full accessibility.

You've heard from many groups that have said we need that, and I don't know if you've heard from any groups that said we don't. The only person who's come before this committee, I believe, to make a case against doing that, and correct me if I'm wrong, is Minister Qualtrough, who may have said, or someone may have said, “Well, we don't have a timeline in the Criminal Code to be crime free.” It's a wrong comparison.

We have a criminal code because we know that unfortunately in our society, there will always be violence and so on. We need laws to protect us when that happens. On the other hand, we can achieve full accessibility by a deadline if we set the deadline.

We do have a society now in which we manage to ensure that we have women's washrooms in public buildings. We don't have to even think about that anymore.

You heard yesterday from Marie Bountrogianni, who wrote Ontario's accessibility law. She talked about how in the design of Ontario's law, the idea of an end deadline was hers and her government's, not ours. They were very clever in doing that. It was a great move.

She said we're doing this so that we reach a point where we can think about accessibility in our environment for people with disabilities the way we think about women's washrooms. It just happens, and we don't even have to think about it anymore.

That's the first thing. We need an end deadline. Without it, progress will be slower. While progress in Ontario hasn't been fast enough, the end deadline has played a very important role in any progress we've made. If this bill has an end deadline, it will be stronger. If it doesn't, it's basically telling people with disabilities, “We'd like accessibility, but don't expect it, ever. There may be some progress, but we're not prepared to say when or even if a world you can fully participate in will ever really happen.”

The other deadlines that need to be built in are concrete deadlines by which various implementation measures in the bill must be taken by government—when standards must be made by, when public officials and agencies like the accessibility standards development organization must be established, and those kinds of timelines.

What we know about government, regardless of party, as we've learned in Ontario, in Manitoba and elsewhere where legislation exists, is that unless there are timelines by which public servants must take certain actions to get the bill and the measures it requires up and running, they will fall behind. It's not because they're bad people, but because they have competing pressures.

To put it simply, folks, you guys are in the political biz, and in the political biz, your timeline is usually the crisis of next week, and the distant future for you is next year's election. Beyond that, it's really out of the spectrum of what people even think about.

We need legislative timelines that go beyond that, and a process to implement it. As in Ontario, if a government fails to meet one of those deadlines, there's a place we can go and an order we can get for the measure they were obliged to take.

8:40 a.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

I'd be interested to briefly hear your comments about a concern that was heard from some of the stakeholders about the deadline to make Canada fully accessible. Should the goal continue to be to always strive to achieve a more accessible Canada, or to achieve a static accessibility goal?

8:40 a.m.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

David Lepofsky

It's never static, but setting a goal of more accessibility is basically telling us that tokenism works, not to say that's what you mean. A goal of making Canada more accessible means that if you put in one ramp in Vancouver and fix one inaccessible website in Halifax, and you've made Canada more accessible. That's all you have to do, and then you can celebrate that we achieved what we set out to do in this bill.

That's not what the government means. They are aiming for a lot more. They've said it. Commend them for their intentions.

What this means is that you need to say that the goal of full accessibility is set by a certain timeline. Whatever the deadline is in Ontario.... If it was 20 years out, that told organizations and municipalities. In the case of the federal government, it would tell Bell Canada, Rogers, Air Canada, Canada Post and the others that you regulate, “Okay, folks, the clock's ticking now, so go back and start making your plans for how you're going to get there on time.” The government will be telling itself the same thing.

It will also enable us to measure progress, because when we're halfway through that timeline, we can ask if we are halfway to that goal. If we're not, then those in your seats will be able to face the call from the community to say that we're ahead of schedule or that we're behind schedule and changes need to be made.

8:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you.

MP Hardcastle is next, please, for six minutes.

8:40 a.m.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank everyone for their thought-provoking comments today. I'm going to try to get us to talk about some of the things that haven't been mentioned. I know there are recurring themes, but we need to explore more fully how we can practically apply amendments and be confident in a consensus about certain amendments.

Yesterday we heard about the lack of a mention of a national building code in this legislation. Today, we're hearing about the responsibility of an accessibility commissioner and a chief accessibility officer.

Maybe you can talk a bit about what you think the roles are and about how we should be articulating standards and whose responsibility that is ultimately or which office should be overseeing that.

8:45 a.m.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

David Lepofsky

Are you directing that to all of us?

8:45 a.m.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Yes, in general; it's to whoever wants to go.

Mr. Lepofsky, you always have a lot just on the tip of your tongue, I think, so don't hold back.