Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time this morning with the member for Parkdale—High Park.
For decades, we have seen concerted efforts made to try to remove barriers to accessibility across Canada, but pervasive barriers still exist all around us. These barriers exist in our physical environment. They exist in the way information and communications technologies are developed, in how employment practices are established, in the way procurement policies are created by the government, in how government serves Canadians and in how our federal transportation networks are structured. These barriers stop millions of Canadians from participating in everyday activities that many people take for granted.
There was a time in Canadian history when the needs of people living with disabilities were not even part of the conversation. That is still too often the case, but thanks to the advocacy of leaders in disability and accessibility issues in Canada, we are more aware of the issues of those living with disabilities. We are increasingly aware of the challenges and injustices faced every day. Legislation alone will not be enough to address the issue; we need a change in the way we as Canadians think.
In Ontario, legislation will ensure that a sports complex has accessible parking spots, wide doors and washrooms. However, if people in wheelchairs are relegated to the second floor because no accessible seating is provided, or where accessible seating is provided, people stand up and block their view for the most exciting part of the game, the goals, that is hardly inclusive.
This is an issue I have been deeply committed to throughout my tenure as a member of Parliament and before I was elected. In the spring of 2017, I held a round table on employment for people living with disabilities in my riding of Oakville North—Burlington. The round table brought together organizations such as Community Living, experts on accessible employment and people with lived experience.
I continue to advocate for this issue in the community, in the House and with my colleagues in Parliament. We need to recognize the contribution people living with disabilities make to employers. It is not about doing what is right, although it is. It also makes economic sense. Just ask employers such as Mark Wafer, former MPP Pete Kevin Flynn, and Phillipa Durbin, who talk about the benefits to their businesses because they have hired those living with disabilities. Ask employees such as my staffers, Steven Muir and Karina Scali, or people like Robin, Andrew or James, who are outstanding employees who make significant contributions to their work.
Madam Speaker, you are aware that our government is a strong proponent of promoting inclusion and fairness to grow the middle class. Our government has committed to measures to make Canada a more equitable place, such as improving income security for seniors and helping families through improvements to the Canada child benefit.
Accessibility is a right in this country, not a privilege. That is why we are putting accessibility at the heart of our actions for greater social justice. That is why our government has brought forward Bill C-81, the accessible Canada act, to uphold that right in areas under federal jurisdiction. This involves Parliament and all that we do here. It involves the Government of Canada, crown corporations and the federally regulated private sector. It includes organizations in the federal transportation network, the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors and the banking and financial sectors.
Federally regulated sectors represent a large component of the Canadian economy. They employ about 900,000 people and are essential to economic, civil and social participation in society.
I believe that our government and our partners in the federally regulated sectors can be true leaders in accessibility. By changing the status quo in these areas, I am confident that a change in standards will follow in the private sector. However, our ambition is greater than that. Our ambition is that this legislation will lead to a more consistent experience of accessibility across Canada.
With this in mind, our government's actions on accessibility are focused on priority areas that Canadians living with disabilities have told us have an impact on their daily lives. They include public buildings and spaces, service delivery, employment, transportation, information and communications technologies and procurement of goods and services.
The core of Bill C-81 is the development and implementation of new accessibility standards in these priority areas. Through Bill C-81, our government is proposing the creation of a new organization called the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. This innovative organization would govern and oversee the process of creating new accessibility standards in partnership with key stakeholders.
I am proud that this organization will be led by a majority of persons living with disabilities on the board of directors. This is key to ensuring that those with lived experience are part of the decision-making process. This has been an issue in the past and continues to be an issue in our country, when those developing policies do not include those living with a disability.
This organization will be the first of its kind in Canada and one of the few in the world that is dedicated to developing only accessibility standards. The organization will work in partnership with persons living with disabilities, technical experts, industry leaders and representatives from organizations that are obligated to comply with the law and its regulations.
The standards created by the organization will then be considered by the government for application to the federal jurisdiction through regulation. Provinces and territories will also be invited to participate in the standards development process. By bringing together perspectives and knowledge about accessibility issues into one place, our government envisions that the Canadian accessibility standards organization will become a global centre of technical knowledge and expertise on accessibility.
We believe that this organization can serve as a national and international model for action on accessibility by putting the principle of “nothing about us without us” at the heart of its operation, letting people living with disabilities lead the way.
Over time, these standards will lead to measurable improvements to accessibility and have a real impact on the lives of Canadians living with disabilities and functional limitations.
In closing, I would like to reflect on the spirit of this legislation. Our government is committed to backing Bill C-81, with focused investment across the Government of Canada. This includes the development of the Canadians accessibility standards development organization.
As a government, we want to make accessibility a reality as we hire people, make our facilities easier to access and purchase goods from private sector suppliers. It is the sum of all these efforts, including new accessibility standards, that will allow people living with disabilities to be included in a way that many of us take for granted.
This legislation is the start of building not just an accessible Canada, but an inclusive Canada. We need to recognize that accessibility is a start, but it is not enough. We need to be leaders and effect real cultural change. This is how we will provide everyone in this country with the chance to realize their full potential. This is how we will make sure that everybody can contribute to the Canada of the future.
Our country will be stronger and all Canadians will benefit when we include everyone in the conversation, when we ensure that each and every Canadian can reach their full potential and when we build a truly inclusive country.