Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate what my hon. colleague said when he mentioned that this is a missed opportunity to work together as colleagues in the House. Back in my riding, people have told me many times that they are looking for us as parliamentarians to take those opportunities where we can collaborate and work together to make legislation better, to serve Canadians from coast to coast to coast. This was one of those opportunities, and unfortunately, it was missed today because of the rush that was put on Bill C-11, a bill that would amend the Copyright Act.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Carleton for his hard work on this piece of legislation when the Conservatives were in power. The member can be assured that there is support from this side of the House with regard to this legislation, because we can see how it would enhance the quality of life for those with a visual impairment and therefore do not have the access they need to library services. Canadians who are print disabled should have the same level of access as all Canadians, and so again, I will reiterate that we do support this legislation going forward.
This legislation would build on that which was introduced previously by the Conservative government to allow for charities and not-for-profits to produce alternative formats for copyrighted material. The important limitation is that this is a not-for-profit exemption, so no one would be able to make a profit off an artist's or a writer's intellectual property. This is a key point, because the legislation would be for the betterment of all Canadians. It would serve our nation as a whole and not profit.
The bill addresses a barrier to inclusion for those with a visual or comprehension disability, which is why we support this legislation for building a more inclusive society.
We all support efforts to bring into effect the World Intellectual Property Organizations' Marrakesh Treaty, as it is known. This treaty is designed to remove barriers to the access of alternative format print materials through changes to domestic copyright laws on an international basis, while also facilitating the sharing of literary materials among nations.
I agree that reading material should be accessible to all. Growing up in my home, I had parents who put a lot of emphasis on the importance of reading. Before I was able to read, my mom spent a lot of time reading to me, believing that it helped with development. I do see where it has had a positive impact. I learned to read at a very young age and I enjoyed it tremendously. I learned much through my reading. I can only imagine what it would be like for someone who does not have access to reading materials to take advantage of the opportunities for learning, enjoyment, and cultural engagement in the same way that I was able to.
We can all agree that this legislation is important and that it would address a pressing need of those with visual or comprehension disabilities. However, the minister overstates how this legislation would increase the employment opportunities for persons with a disability. There are other factors that have to be understood on this matter.
We have all heard the personal stories of those living with a disability, how difficult it is for them to secure and maintain employment, or how difficult it is for them to have a sustainable income. These individuals are looking for the leadership from the present Liberal government that they saw under our previous Conservative government. Unfortunately, the government appears to be going after the low-hanging fruit on this file, with legislation that was already in motion, introduced under the previous government and largely in the same format as we see it today.
The Liberal government promised in its platform to introduce a national disabilities act, and unfortunately we have not seen any movement forward on that. The focus of such an act would be to address the systemic barriers to accessing employment and community services that are faced by persons with disabilities.
Bill C-11 is a much-needed piece of legislation for Canada. It is a much-needed initiative going forward. Persons with disabilities in this country are asking the present government for a real plan and sustained leadership. They are asking for employment opportunities and for equality in all things having to do with life.
While this legislation before us today is a good step, it is not adequate and it does not show leadership in the way Canadians need.
It is unfortunate that there was no mention of persons with disabilities in the Speech from the Throne or in the Liberals' 2016 budget, again reiterating that the current government is not taking seriously those persons with disabilities.
Our Conservative government had a strong record of providing new tools and programs to give persons with disabilities control over their future. Under the initiatives brought in by the late Jim Flaherty, we increased training for employment, increased accessibility for those who have a disability, and ensured they are able to join employment forces. We funded community projects to make facilities more accessible to those with a physical disability. We created a registered savings plan so that parents were given new tools to financially plan for their child with a disability.
While we support this legislation that is before the House today, we are left asking some very significant questions. We wonder where the ambition of the current government has gone, where its promises lie. We wonder if the current government is going to follow through on its commitments to a national plan with regard to those with disabilities. Again, not having seen it in the 2016 budget and not having heard of any sort of plan in the Liberals' throne speech, we are left wondering these things. Why is it that the Liberals have not made inclusion of persons with a disability a top priority?
What I have heard on the ground from those people living with a disability is that they want to work so that they can provide for themselves. They want opportunities to seek employment and to not be discriminated against as they do so. Again, they are looking to the current government to take leadership in this regard. We know that among us it is often disabled individuals who are the most impoverished. Because they cannot find the type of employment that perhaps others can, they are left with a rather meagre income. As a result, they are living in poverty and do not have access to the services and the lifestyle that perhaps the rest of Canadians have. They want to be able to access public spaces, to participate in their communities, and to be contributing members. Once again, they are looking to the current government to provide some leadership in these areas.
I have not heard of this bill, Bill C-11, as being a top-of-mind concern for constituents when so many of those persons with a disability are in fact living in poverty because they cannot access employment. Once again, I would reiterate that the minister is overstating that this bill that is before the House today would create greater employment opportunities to the extent that she has implied. Although it would be a helpful step in that direction, once again I implore the government to take adequate steps in this direction.
While we support this legislation and the intent that it holds, we are left asking this. Where is the plan to address the more serious issues that face the Canadians among us who have a disability? Where is the leadership that the current government promised for the sake of all Canadians, to have an inclusive place within Canadian society?