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Bringing Canadians With Disabilities Into the Mainstream of Canadian Society January, 2017 Brief by John Rae

Bringing Canadians With Disabilities Into the Mainstream of Canadian Society January, 2017
Brief by John Rae

BACKGROUND:

My name is John Rae. I am totally blind and live in Toronto.

Over the past 40 years, I have worked for the Ontario Government, held elective offices in Canadas labour movement at the local, provincial and national levels, and have participated actively in numerous community-based organizations dealing with disability and broader human rights issues.

The Government of Canada has expressed its commitment to eliminating systemic barriers and providing equality of opportunity to all Canadians living with disabilities in Canada. This is a welcomed commitment, and the proposed Act must include tangible improvements to the lives of Canadians with disabilities – including the amendment of a number of existing statutes –
if it is to deliver on this important commitment. In this Brief, I will draw upon my wide range of experiences. While my work has included extensive cross-disability involvement, I intend to focus primarily on issues and proposed solutions that affect the blind community, the segment of Canadas disability community with which I am most familiar, through both my own lived experiences and from decades of dealing with various issues and organizations in this field.

AN IMPORTANT DISTINCTION IN TERMINOLOGY:

There are fundamental differences between consumer organizations of persons with disabilities and service providers for persons with disabilities. A disability service provider is an agency which exists to provide disability-related services to people with disabilities. Such services may include habilitation-rehabilitation, orientation and mobility training, and assistance with obtaining needed technology and other equipment and training to use this equipment. Service providers vary greatly on the makeup of their governing bodies and except for the network of Independent Living Centres across Canada, are generally not run by people with disabilities. As such, service providers should never be considered legitimate representatives of the interests of people with disabilities. The CNIB, the Montreal Association for the Blind (MAB), and Balance for Blind Adults are examples of service providers.

A consumer organization, by contrast, is comprised of at least fifty percent of people with the disability or types of disabilities which that organization represents and has a majority of persons with disabilities on its governing body. The purpose of a disability consumer organization is to enable people with disabilities to provide peer support to each other and to be a vehicle for collective action and social change.

Generally speaking, consumer organizations should not provide services beyond peer support, information sharing and public awareness. Within the range of disability consumer organizations, there are both uni-disability organizations that represent only one particular disability and cross disability organizations that represent a variety of different disabilities.

In the context of the blind and vision-impaired community, the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, (AEBC), Guide Dog Users of Canada (GDUC), and the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) are examples of consumer organizations.

Recommendation:

1. Consumer organizations should be viewed as rights holder organizations not merely another group among a range of stakeholders and must be accorded their rightful role to be active participants in the development and implementation of all new and revised legislation, policies, and programs that affect the individuals who are ultimately affected by these decisions persons with disabilities.

BARRIERS VERSUS EQUALITY:

A Barrier” is anything that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society because of his or her disability, including a physical barrier, an architectural barrier, an information or communications barrier, an attitudinal barrier, a technological barrier, a policy or a practice. (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, s.2).

The theme for the International Year of the Disabled Person way back in 1981 was very forward looking for its time: full participation and equality. Despite this theme, thirty-five years later, Canadians with disabilities continue to confront numerous barriers that inhibit or prevent the inclusion of Canadians with disabilities into and full participation in all aspects of daily life in Canada. Today, the disability rights movement continues to strongly urge the elimination of existing barriers, but too often it must spend critical time protecting gains that have been won or, strange though it may sound in 2017, preventing the introduction of new barriers.

For Canadians who are blind, some of the primary barriers we confront and attempt to overcome on a daily basis include:

the purchase of new IT equipment that is unusable by persons using a screen reader
websites that do not include adequate alt tags so we can determine the sites content
the failure to provide alternative methods of voting so that we can independently and in secret verify that we cast our vote for the candidate of our choice
a lack of choice in the purchase of an accessible cell phone
the introduction of kiosks that do not offer voice output
the removal of staff from train stations, a change which we consider a safety issue
the failure to require cable providers to offer fully accessible set top boxes that we can operate without sighted assistance
a lack of incentives to publishers to produce more of their titles in various formats (braille, large print, audio and e-text)
the failure to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to remove discriminatory provisions against the entry of persons with disabilities into Canada.
Recommendation:

2. In developing implementation strategies and concrete new policies, procedures and legislation, the Government of Canada must be guided by the provisions contained in Canadas Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and Universal Design principles as a framework for action.

3. The new Act must expand and enhance protections that are already provided for under existing statutes.

4. Consumer-run organizations such as the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), Guide Dog Users of Canada (GDUC), the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB), and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) should be considered as rights holder organizations, and be consulted and accorded their rightful, preeminent role to participate actively in developing and implementing all new legislation, policies, and programs. These organizations are the legitimate voice of the disability community in Canada and their members are prepared to contribute their lived experiences to the decision-making process.

5. The proposed National Act must include concrete policies for the elimination of old systemic barriers and the prevention of new barriers, and clear measures to rigorously enforce the Act.

BEYOND PRINCIPLES:

The marketplace alone has failed, is failing, and cannot suddenly be expected to be the answer to the needs of Canadians with disabilities; thus, further regulation is required.

I have reviewed the list of Principles from Barrier-Free Canada/Canada Sans Barriers (BFC/CSB, http://barrierfreecanada.org/principles), and generally endorse them. However, the Act must go far, far beyond simply enunciating a list of desirable principles and providing for the development of standards; the Act must also go far beyond measures to improve awareness and change outdated, negative attitudes; the Act must enhance and not take away from existing legal protection; the Act must recognize that universal design principles are essential to the successful achievement of full inclusion; and the Act must bring about tangible and meaningful advances for Canadians with disabilities right now, as we have waited far too long to join the mainstream of Canadian Society.

6. The National Accessibility and Inclusion Act must recognize that the adoption and application of universal design principles is essential to the successful achievement of full inclusion.

7. The National Acts content must go far beyond mere Principles and must include both Departmental reviews of existing legislation in collaboration with organizations of persons with various disabilities leading to the amendment of various existing statutes, and strong enforcement measures that will remove existing barriers and prevent the introduction of new barriers. To be perfectly clear, the Act should use words like shall, must, or implement whenever a manufacturer, employer, and/or service provider is required to implement provisions of the Act.

8. The Act must explicitly provide that it does not undermine nor take away from existing legal rights under the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the UN Convention, or any other equality legislation.

SHORT TITLE FOR THE ACT:

Words are important, and the extent of this Acts intent and requirements must be crystal clear in the minds of its readers and among those who will be required to implement its provisions. Thus, the title of the new Act must be inclusive and must both go well beyond and be recognized as going well beyond physical accessibility. Its title should reflect this broad and inclusive intent and Scope.

Recommendation:

9. The Act should be titled the Canada Accessibility and Inclusion Act to ensure that all who read it will realize immediately that its provisions go beyond physical access.

THE ARGUMENTS FOR MEANINGFUL PROGRESS NOW!

Disability Advocates, including myself, have worked for concrete progress on many of these issues for many, many years. We have repeatedly outlined the chronic need for progress in a variety of ways including the moral imperative, the legal basis, and the benefits to business. Yet too many of us remain on the sidelines out of the mainstream of Canadian society. This Act must give greater priority to disability issues, and help bring more persons with various disabilities and our issues into the mainstream of Canadian consciousness and activity.

We have argued that full inclusion is the right thing to do, especially in a country like Canada that is proud of its human rights record.

We have argued the business benefits of including more people with disabilities. Employing more of us in the companies and boardrooms where decisions are made about what new products are manufactured would help reduce our chronic level of unemployment and reliance on costly adaptations. This will also help reduce barriers by producing a wider range of [edit] accessible products that are built from the ground up using universal design principles. Canada is a trading nation, and as more and more nations implement their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, there will be more and more opportunities for selling these more accessible products, both within Canada and abroad.

We have outlined the legal argument: Canadas Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the UN Convention all support barrier-elimination and prevention and bringing Canadians with disabilities into the mainstream of Canadian society.

Recommendation:

10. The Act must include meaningful, concrete provisions, designed to bring Canadians with disabilities fully into the mainstream of economic and social life in Canada.

SCOPE:

The Act must be broad in scope, both in terms of the definition of disability and in ensuring broad coverage of the Acts provisions. The Act must be a cross-disability instrument with a broad understanding of the needs and aspirations of Canadians with various disabilities, including issues of intersectionality facing women and girls, racial minorities, and Indigenous peoples.

Recommendation:

11. The Scope of the Act must cover all persons who have any disability, whether they have a physical, mental, sensory, learning and/or intellectual disability, or mental health condition, or are regarded as having or having had any disability. It must cover persons with both visible and invisible disabilities, both long term and episodic, and it must recognize the double or even multiple disadvantages experienced by women and girls, racial minorities, and Indigenous peoples.

12. The Act must cover any and all entities under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada, including Parliament and its Committees, all Departments, Agencies, Boards and Commissions, and it must also cover all grants and contribution agreements entered into by the Government of Canada and any of its entities.

PURPOSE CLAUSE:

The Purpose of the Act must be to remove existing barriers and prevent the introduction of new barriers. The Acts Purpose must be to achieve full inclusion and participation of persons with various disabilities in all aspects of Canadian society. The Act must also articulate concrete measures to achieve these goals.

Recommendation:

13. The Act should contain a Purpose Clause, which must set out clear objectives and concrete measures that will ensure all persons with disabilities in Canada can attain equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Canada based on their own merit. It must include clear time lines for eliminating old barriers and preventing the introduction of new barriers, with clear time lines and enforcement and accountability measures for achieving the Acts purposes.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES WITH DISABILITIES:

The incidence of disability among many Indigenous Peoples in certain age categories is almost twice that of the rest of Canadas population. While addressing the issues facing indigenous peoples with disabilities including both on and off reserve residents and Inuit and Métis peoples is complicated by jurisdictional issues and lack of real government will, the Government of Canada has jurisdictional responsibility for those living on reserves. Nonetheless, many people are forced to leave reserves in order to secure the services they require, services which, for the most part, are provided by provincial and territorial governments. However, issues of jurisdiction must not delay an effective and timely response by all levels of government to the extreme plight that is the lived experience of Indigenous Peoples , including Indigenous Peoples with disabilities.

Recommendation:

14. The dialogue concerning a Federal Disability Act must include direct discussions with key organizations representing the broad range of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

15. The Act must expressly address barrier removal for indigenous persons with disabilities both on and off reserves, including Inuit and Métis peoples.

ONGOING CHRONIC UNEMPLOYMENT AND UNDER-EMPLOYMENT:

Canadians with disabilities, including Canadians who are blind, Deaf-blind, or partially sighted represent a largely untapped resource, and we continue to be plagued by an unacceptable level of systemic chronic unemployment and under-employment that should be considered a national disgrace in a developed country such as Canada!

The employment rate for vision-impaired Canadians of working age is just 38 per cent, compared with over 60 per cent for the population at large. In a recent poll by the market research firm Ipsos, 70 per cent of Canadians surveyed said that, if faced with two equally qualified job applicants, they would hire the sighted candidate over the vision-impaired candidate. Ten to 14 per cent of vision-impaired respondents said they believed they had been refused jobs, interviews, or promotions because of their vision disability.

This situation was re-enforced by a new poll, reported on by Michelle McQuigge in her article, Only half of disabled Canadians have a full or part-time job: CIBC poll, (Canadian Press, January 17, 2017),

The survey commissioned by CIBC and conducted by Angus Reid found that only half of respondents living with a disability have a full or part-time job. The unemployed respondents overwhelmingly said they were out of work as a direct result of their disability, with 67 per cent citing it as the reason for their current circumstances.

The survey also found that only 23 per cent of respondents feel comfortable disclosing their disability to a potential employer before the interview process gets underway.

About 19 per cent of respondents said they had no intention of discussing such information at all, with half of them citing fear of discrimination as the reason for their silence.

The unemployment rate facing Canadians with various disabilities is exacerbated by a growing trend among todays employers, who are increasingly seeking employees who can perform a wide range of varied tasks. This new reality flies in the face of the employers legal duty to accommodate workers short of undue hardship, and contributes directly to a vicious circle of disadvantage. Unemployment leads directly to a high rate of poverty among too many Canadians with disabilities, and poverty contributes directly to health problems and isolation from public life.

In the past, numerous blind persons gained employment as transcriptionists, telephone operators, darkroom technicians, or receptionists jobs that have largely disappeared due to advances in technology which have rendered them obsolete.

The legislation must address building design, equipment design, software design, furniture design, the workplace and its facilities such as office space and design, all of these aspects must be designed in a manner that provide ease of access for those who use a wheelchair, but also must offer easy access for those who are blind or vision-impaired. In this regard, a federally regulated facility cannot say that a building has met the requirements of inclusive design if it only has a ramp for wheelchair users; the organization must take into account the rest of the facility such as ensuring that elevators are accessible to persons who are blind and vision-impaired, and that washrooms have tactile displays. To this end The Act must help remove all barriers which inhibit or prevent any group of persons with disabilities from gaining employment in society.

The federal government is a large employer, and the unemployment and underemployment situation facing persons with disabilities must be given higher priority. There is a critical need for new initiatives to change attitudes, encourage a more positive climate and institute targets and goals that will increase the hiring, retention, and promotion of more Canadians with vision impairments and other disabilities. To support these objectives, the federal government should strengthen the federal Employment Equity Act, and tie performance pay for all senior executives to improving the representation of persons with disabilities in their organizations.

Recommendations:

16. The Government of Canada must set the standard for other public and private sector employers, become a model employer, and develop new initiatives to reduce the stigma associated with disability, including recruiting, retaining and promoting more Canadians who are blind, Deaf-blind and partially sighted.

17. Initiatives must include proactive measures through the procurement process to ensure all technology and other workplace equipment are barrier-free. This must also include retrofitting the governments intranet and payroll systems to make them usable independently by employees who are blind, Deaf-blind or partially sighted.

18. Through consultations with business, labour and consumer organizations representing persons with disabilities, the Government of Canada must work more closely with employers and develop new initiatives to help overcome the pervasive resistance of employers to hire, accommodate, and retain workers with disabilities.

19. Human rights commissions, all of which receive the highest percentage of complaints from persons with disabilities, particularly in the area of employment, must devote more of their time and resources to dealing more vigorously with the systemic discrimination facing workers with various disabilities, including Canadians who are blind, Deaf-blind and partially sighted.

20. Performance pay for all senior executives should be tied to the senior manager’s ability to eliminate barriers within the workplace and increase the representation of persons with disabilities in their organizations.

21. The Government of Canada must strengthen the federal Employment Equity Act to increase obligations on federally regulated employers, including goals and timetables as well as a stronger enforcement mechanism to ensure that their labour force is more reflective of the diversity of Canadian society.

THE DISPROPORTIONATE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF PRECARIOUS EMPLOYMENT ON PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES:

Speaking at a meeting of the federal Liberal Party’s Ontario wing in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Finance Minister Bill Morneau was quoted as saying in part that Canadians should get used to the so-called job churn meaning short-term employment and a number of career changes in a person’s life (Get used to ‘job churn,’ Morneau tells Liberal meeting, CTV News, Oct. 22, 2016). When asked about precarious employment, the Finance Minister told delegates that high employee turnover and short-term contract work will continue in young people’s lives, and that government has to focus on preparing for it.

While the growth in more precarious work has implications for all workers, its growth will have additional negative impact on workers with disabilities. Since it can take longer for a person with a disability to find a job, any job, it follows that the advance of short term, less secure work will result in longer periods of unemployment between jobs for persons with disabilities.

Recommendations:

22. The Government of Canada must work more with business, labour, and consumer organizations to develop new initiatives to help cushion the disproportionately negative effects of precarious work on the disabled community, a segment of Canadian society that already faces chronic levels of systemic unemployment and under-employment.

23. Performance pay for all senior executives should be tied to the senior manager’s ability to eliminate barriers within the workplace and increase the representation of persons with disabilities in their organizations.

PROCUREMENT:

The Government of Canada, its Agencies, Boards, and Commissions, along with other large public and private sector organizations, exercise extensive purchasing power which could be used to positively influence the marketplace. This purchasing power should be used to leverage the manufacturing sector to produce an increased range of technology and other products that are designed and manufactured using universal design principles so that they may be used immediately and without adaptations by a larger number of individuals.

The clearest precedent for this is section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that makes accessibility a procurement criterion for the United States federal government. More specifically, when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain or use electronic and information technology, they must ensure that the technology is accessible to employees and members of the public who have disabilities to the extent that it does not pose an “undue burden”. The law establishes a complaint procedure and reporting requirements. Individuals may also sue an agency in court to correct an alleged violation.

For blind Canadians, this is particularly crucial when it comes to the purchase of new technology, which can either enhance our range of opportunities, or create new barriers that will only further shut us out. Encouraging the manufacture of an increased range of products based on universal design principles will not only benefit Canadians with disabilities, but if, as members of a trading nation, Canadian business were to take a leading role in the development and manufacture of goods that are usable by a wider range of individuals, this could open up new markets worldwide for Canadian companies, as more and more nation states implement their obligations under the UN Convention.

Recommendation:

24. All Requests for Proposals issued by the government of Canada, its Agencies, Boards, and Commissions, and other major public and private sector organizations, should contain a contract compliance clause regarding accessibility, and this provision must be accorded an integral part of the decision-making process when bids are being assessed.

25. The Government of Canada should actively encourage Canadian business to produce more products that are usable by persons with disabilities without the need for adaptations.

PROTECTION OF EMPLOYEES WHO ARE IN RECEIPT OF LONG-TERM DISABILITY BENEFITS:

The disability community has been monitoring Nortel’s very lengthy bankruptcy process with keen interest. Nortel employees on long-term disability had expected to receive benefits until age 65, but when Nortel went bankrupt, they were cut off at the end of 2010.

Some of these former employees are now litigating over the dispersal of Nortel’s Health and Welfare Trust.

The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (“BIA”) was amended, and at the same time the Wage Earner Protection Program Act (“WEPPA”) was promulgated, on July 7, 2008, to provide new super priority rights to employees in the event of bankruptcy or receivership of their employer for: (i) unpaid wages; and (ii) unpaid pension plan contributions. Prior to these legislative changes, employees frequently received only a portion of their claims when their employer went bankrupt, as they were unsecured creditors within the meaning of the BIA.

Pension benefits have generally been given statutory protection across Canada since the early 1980s, so that pension funds are held in trust, separate from the ordinary assets of employers, in the event of insolvency. The public policy objective of these legislative changes was to increase the protection afforded to ordinary employees, who are in a much weaker position than most secured creditors, who are typically the major banks, in the event of expensive litigation between creditors. Employees who are in receipt of long-term disability benefits deserve comparable legislative protection.

Over the last few decades, various Pension Benefits Acts have been amended to recognize the need to deal with family law property divisions, the need of impecunious individuals to unlock benefits, and the right of women to equal treatment, so that pension calculations and payouts do not distinguish based on gender. It is time to force employers who are required to provide long-term disability benefits to do so in a regulated environment, and to stop the practice of self-funding such benefits, which has led to unintended, but very serious hardship for members of the disability community, at the time of both the Nortel and Eaton’s bankruptcies. We must learn from these bankruptcies that no corporation is “too big to fail”, and provide enhanced protection for people with disabilities.

Recommendations:

26. The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) should be amended so that employees who are in receipt of long-term disability benefits at the time of their employer’s insolvency receive new super priority rights for their benefits, up to the age of 65, a practice which mirrors most benefits plans and would restore them to the position they would have been in, but for their employer’s bankruptcy.

27. An employees right to long-term disability benefits should also fall within a trust, recognized by statute.

28. Rather than create a new regulatory framework, Pension Benefits Acts across Canada should be amended to recognize the special vulnerability of people with disabilities, who are already in receipt of long-term disability benefits, in the event of their employer’s insolvency.

TRANSFORMING THE CURRENT DTC INTO A TRULY REFUNDABLE DISABILITY TAX CREDIT:

The current so called Disability Tax Credit (DTC) provides some tax relief for eligible Canadians with disabilities who pay taxes. However, for approximately 2/3 of the disability community about 750,000 Canadians the DTC is of no assistance because they are not earning enough money to receive tax credits.

Transforming the current DTC into a fully refundable Disability Tax Credit would help offset some of the additional costs for persons living with significant disabilities, regardless of their income. This reform would extend a modest annual amount of financial support to many of the lowest income earners in Canada and create new opportunities for their inclusion and greater participation in Canadian society.

Recommendation:

29. Reform the current DTC and make it a truly Refundable Tax Credit to provide some financial relief to a greater number of eligible Canadians with disabilities.

TRANSPORTATION AND THE CANADIAN TRANSPORTATION ACT:

Having access to reliable, affordable, and accessible modes of transportation is critical to the independence for all Canadians, but especially for Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind, or partially sighted who do not drive. There are many unresolved transportation barriers under federal jurisdiction when one considers the various modes of travel air, rail, inter-provincial ferries, inter-city bus, and local bus service in the Gatineau region.

A) Air:

For someone who is vision-impaired, moving through a major airport to obtain a boarding pass, find a food outlet, go through security, retrieve luggage, or move to or from your flight, is almost impossible without sighted assistance. There are no electronic sign posts or way-finding devices, nor is there any distinguishable flooring to follow.

Automated check-in Kiosks do not provide speech output, so these are not useable by blind passengers. This can leave us at a disadvantage in making our way through any airport in a timely manner. This disadvantage is likely to become further exacerbated in the future as the use of technology evolves and staff are reduced.

Once we have obtained a boarding pass, it is extremely difficult to go through security independently and proceed to the departure gate and on to the aircraft. When the aircraft lands, we are told to wait until everyone else has deplaned so that someone can assist us.

At Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto, the quality of customer service assistance varies greatly, often depending upon whether it is provided by air carrier staff or contracted out. At times, even when assistance is requested at time of booking and confirmed at check-in, there is no guarantee that assistance will arrive promptly upon arrival at the gate. In addition, too often, staff providing assistance will only do so if a vision-impaired passenger agrees to sit in a wheelchair. The use of a wheelchair is too often required even when we do not have a physical impairment that requires the use of a wheelchair, when it is really the absence of universal design features in the airport that stops us from finding our own way. Inappropriate assistance like this deprives us of our dignity.

For passengers who are accompanied by a service animal such as a guide dog, there are no relief areas inside security areas, and one must take the service animal out of the secure area for relieving, and then take the time to return through security and back to the gate. This lack of a relief area within secure areas is extremely stressful for both the dog and the animals owner, especially when flights are close together.

Even though Robin East of Saskatoon won a federal court of appeal case (East Vs Air Canada0 which gave him the right for sufficient room for a guide dog to lie comfortably on the floor by having the seat next to him blocked for this use, guide dog users are routinely asked to give up the dogs floor space so the carrier can squeeze in another passenger. It is clear that the Canada Transportation Agencys Voluntary Codes of Practice are woefully inadequate when it comes to guaranteeing full access, as business decisions continue to take advantage of the disabled.

B) Rail:

More and more train stations do not have staff present to meet all arriving and departing trains. Having to board or get off a train at a stop where there is no longer staff to meet the train represents a clear safety issue for persons who are blind.

VIA Rail accommodates travelers with disabilities in these circumstances:

extra seat for attendant,
extra space for guide dogs
extra seat for passengers who have issues with width of seat
People with disabilities who have psychiatric or autism disabilities may also require additional space in order to travel. However, requests for an extra seat are generally denied to these populations, even if documentation from a medical practitioner is presented. These passengers are instead instructed to purchase two tickets.

C) Inter-City Bus:

When a passenger purchases a bus ticket, [edit] this is supposed to include sufficient room for a guide dog. [edit] This practice varies across the country, but it should be consistent that a bus ticket is issued for an accompanying dog guide to allow sufficient room for the passenger and the guide dog.

D) Powers of the Canadian Transportation Agency:

There are court decisions in which the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada have ruled that the CTA and CRTC have jurisdiction over disability related complaints when the facts place them clearly in the transportation and broadcasting contexts. In Morten at the Federal Court level, Justice O’Keefe set out at paragraph 62 “the majority decision authored by Justice Abella determined that Parliament, with its enactment of the CTA, intended the Agency, and not the Commission, to assess barriers in the unique transportation context”.

Paragraph 69 of this decision is also important. It sets out:

“I am of the opinion that Parliament’s intention was that the Agency and not the Commission or Tribunal would handle such complaints when they relate to a carrier’s policies, tariffs or transportation regulations. It would not make sense if two distinctively separate administrative bodies competed for oversight and management of carriers’ policies and tariffs.”

The CTA Act, however, limits it to only adjudicating situations involving undue obstacles to travel, and this power does not enable the CTA to assist travelers with disabilities to seek redress from barriers that are not considered undue, nor does it have the same power as does the CHRT to order redress in such cases.

Recommendations:

30. Install Way Finding devices in all Airports.

31. Require all airlines to stop contracting out ground assistance, and provide it directly to passengers with disabilities who request it.

32. Create relieving areas for guide dogs and other service animals inside security areas at all airports.

33. Ensure there are staff available at all train stations to help persons with disabilities traverse from the train to an area where they are safe.

34. Ensure that there is way-finding technology at all train stations.

35. Accommodate the needs of persons with psychiatric or autism disabilities who may need an attendant or the seat beside them left empty

36. Install fully usable automated kiosks in all transportation terminals and equip them with speech output so blind passengers can use them independently.

37. Develop a national policy such that persons using a guide dog or other service animal while accessing an interprovincial bus will automatically get a bus ticket for that animal at no extra cost.

38. Ensure there is sufficient space for guide dogs and other service animals on all modes of transportation under federal jurisdiction.

39. Require the Canadian Transportation Agency to make regulations to eliminate, within a fixed and reasonable time period, all obstacles in the transportation network to the travel of people with disabilities and not just undue obstacles.

40. Create mandatory regulations via the CTA and replace the existing Voluntary Codes of Practice

DEVELOPMENT OF QUIET VEHICLES:

Research is progressing quickly, and within the next ten or twenty years, it is expected that driverless cars and even driverless trucks will become commonplace on our roads. While some argue that driverless vehicles may be safer than driver-operated vehicles, many pedestrians are worried about the true level of safety of these vehicles.

Already, there are a growing number of quiet cars on our roads, and these pose safety risks to blind persons, who often cannot hear the approach of such vehicles.

The World Blind Union (WBU) has been spearheading the development of an international standard that will make approaching hybrid vehicles easier to hear. In March 2016, the United Nations adopted a limited international regulation requiring hybrid and electric vehicles to be equipped with an alert sound device that is binding on 50 countries around the world. However, this is just the beginning as quiet cars everywhere must be equipped with an audible alert sound.

An article, Coming soon to Your quiet hybrid, By Fredrick Kunkle (The Washington Post, November 23, 2016), reports that under a new safety regulation issued by the (U.S.) federal government, hybrids and electric cars will have to be equipped with a device that emits sound to alert passersby that the vehicle is running. Manufacturers will have until Sept. 1, 2019, to meet the requirement. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in announcing the new safety standard, stated that adding noise to the nearly soundless vehicles could prevent nearly 2,400 injuries a year to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Recommendations:

41. Canada should develop national standards for the inclusion of sufficient sound on all vehicles so that they can be heard by pedestrians.

LIBRARY SERVICES:

Today, it is easier than ever before to produce books and other printed works in multiple formats (hard copy braille, digital audio, braille, large print, and e-text), yet only a miniscule portion of published material is produced in multiple formats. A growing number of mainstream sources, including audible.com, the Braille Bookstore, and a host of other private sector sources, as well as the public library system, are attempting to make more of their materials available in various formats, but braille, which is now easier to produce than ever before, remains particularly scarce.

While the industry attempts to point out problems with the current approach, the Government of Canada has steadfastly supported a segregated delivery model through grants to CNIB, instead of offering incentives to Canadian publishers to make more of their publications available in multiple formats. This approach has worked to the detriment of mainstream publishers and legitimate copyright holders, and has added additional costs to public libraries acquisition budgets while threatening the investments of innovative small and medium sized enterprises with both capacity and capability to serve mainstream publishers.

Recommendations:

42. The Government of Canada should stop issuing single source grants to organizations that offer segregated delivery systems, and instead offer incentives to publishers to produce accessible digital format books that can be downloaded online.

43. The Government of Canada should develop supply channels in partnership with the private sector for hardcopy alternative format books to serve community needs, and support public libraries to become more accessible and to distribute more publications in multiple formats in the communities they serve without the client needing to identify as a blind person to simply take out a library book.

HEALTH CARE:

Health Canadas responsibility is to Preserve and modernize Canadas health care system.

While pharmacists are legally required to verbally explain dosage instructions when dispensing prescription medications, independently identifying prescription medications has been a long standing challenge for Canadians who are blind, deafblind or partially sighted, especially for those of us who live alone and/or need to take several different medications that come in similar bottles. In addition, medications often are accompanied by additional instructions (e.g., take with food, consume on a full stomach, etc.). There are also side effects, prescription refill numbers, expiry dates and other critical details made instantly and conveniently available to a sighted consumer. This information is usually provided on pieces of separate pieces of paper. We want and need to know about the details of the medications we are prescribed.

The Association of Sight Impaired Consumers (ASIC) has been spearheading the use of technology manufactured by En-Vision America, known as the ScripTalk Reader. This technology provides a small, inexpensive radio-frequency identification (RFID) label affixed to the bottom of a prescription bottle, or an over-the-counter (OTC) medication package. Once encoded, the RFID label contains:

Patient’s name
Name of medication and strength
Dosage instructions
Prescribing doctor’s name
Refills remaining
Dispensing date
Potential side effects and much more
All of the information encoded on an RFID label is read aloud simply by placing the prescription bottle on the ScripTalk Reader, and pressing a button. ScripTalk Readers are available at no-cost to the user, come in multiple languages, and are also very helpful for people with print disabilities (i.e., people with dyslexia or significant learning disabilities

The Overwaitea Food Group (a BC/Alberta-based supermarket chain with in-store pharmacy outlets), Peoples Drug Mart and London Drugs (throughout Western Canada) are offering accessible prescription information via Envision America’s ScripTalk Reader. However, ASIC is concerned that each of these pharmacy chains is encoding RFID labels from a centralized distribution point, and Shipping from a central source to pharmacy outlets can take up to 6 days or longer.

In addition, given the ongoing chronic level of poverty that continues to be the lived experience of far too many Canadians with disabilities, many cannot afford needed medications, some of which are vital to managing their disability.

Recommendations:

44. Health Canada should develop national standards for ensuring access to information about prescription drugs and over the counter medications.

45. Health Canada should develop a national Pharmacare program.

VOTING:

Casting ones vote is considered by many to be the most important act that is performed by any citizen living in a democracy. The Canadian Elections Act discriminates against electors who are blind, as it fails to provide a mechanism to enable us to independently and in secret verify that we have actually voted for the candidate of our choice.

The Liberal party has promised the October, 2015 election will be the last election to use the first past the post system. However, while a number of alternative methods for electing members to the House of Commons are being discussed, none have yet demonstrated that any of these proposed alternatives is likely to produce an outcome that will more closely mirror the percentage of persons with disabilities in our population.

Electoral reform, however, should go beyond the act of casting ones vote, and should also include measures to assist all Canadians to be able to cast an informed vote.

Recommendations:

46. Restrictions on testing and implementing alternative methods of voting telephone, online, or electronic options must be repealed from the Canada Elections Act, and work on developing alternative voting options must be given high priority.

47. If a new system of electing members to the House of Commons is to be introduced, it must offer the likelihood that it will produce a more representative House of Commons, including the election of a higher percentage of members with disabilities.

48. The Canada Elections Act should be further amended to add provisions mandating accessible campaign offices and campaign meetings, and the publication of campaign literature in various formats, including plain language.

49. The Election Financing Act should allocate additional funding to support the entry of candidates with disabilities to run for political office.

PARKS CANADA:

The Parks Canada Agency Act, 1998 provides Parks Canada with a broad mandate to ensure Canadas national parks, national historic sites, national marine conservation areas and other heritage areas are protected and presented for present and future generations of Canadians to enjoy. Parks Canada was the worlds first national park service, established in 1911. To date, the Government of Canada has designated 979 national historic sitesof which 171 are administered by Parks Canada along with 690 national historic persons and 475 national historic events. Today, Parks Canada welcomes over 20 million visitors each year.

Parks Canada currently works with over 300 Indigenous communities across Canada to rebuild connections to the lands and share their stories with visitors. Parks Canada views Indigenous peoples as partners in the management of its heritage places. In 2015, Parks Canada released Promising Pathways, a guide to working with Indigenous partners.

Parks Canada should develop a similar ongoing collaborative working relationship with consumer organizations of persons with various disabilities such as the Council of Canadians With Disabilities and other organizations in the disability community.

Recommendations:

50. Parks Canada should develop an ongoing collaborative working relationship with organizations within the disability community, such as the Council of Canadians With Disabilities, as it has with indigenous communities across Canada.

51. Parks Canada facilities should review their websites to ensure they meet WCAG 2.0 level AA standards, so they are fully accessible to and usable by persons who use a screen reader.

52. Parks Canadas facilities should include disability-related content in its Canada 150 celebratory programming.

53. Parks Canada facilities should encourage the greater participation of persons with disabilities as staff, interns and volunteers.

IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION ACT (IRPA):

Section 38(1)(c) of Canadas Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) states that:

38(1) A foreign national is inadmissible on health grounds if their health condition

(c) might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.

By contrast, Article 18 of the UN Convention, Liberty of movement and nationality states in part:

1. States Parties shall recognize the rights of persons with disabilities to

liberty of movement, to freedom to choose their residence and to a nationality,

on an equal basis with others, including by ensuring that persons with

disabilities:

(a) Have the right to acquire and change a nationality and are not

deprived of their nationality arbitrarily or on the basis of disability;

(b) Are not deprived, on the basis of disability, of their ability to

obtain, possess and utilize documentation of their nationality or other

documentation of identification, or to utilize relevant processes such as

immigration proceedings, that may be needed to facilitate exercise of the right

to liberty of movement;

The Government of Canada resettled more than 25,000 Syrian refugees between November 4, 2015 and February 29, 2016. Considering the war-torn conditions many of these refugees fled, we can expect a reasonable number will be affected by Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD), and that these some of these individuals will need assistance in dealing with their PTSD.

Recommendations:

54. Section 38(1)(c) of the IRPA must be repealed and steps taken to remove the stigma associated with persons with a disability wishing to immigrate to Canada.

55. The Government of Canada must assist newly arrived immigrants and refugees to deal with the experience of displacement and migration and the circumstances that led to their migration, including the effects of trauma from war.

NATIONAL HOUSING STRATEGY:

Research into the social determinants of health such as level of education or quality of housing largely define individual well-being. According to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, 50% of a persons health is determined by social and economic environments, whereas 25% is determined by the healthcare system and 25% is from biological factors and health-related behaviours. (Cited in the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (2001), The Health of Canadians The Federal Role, Volume One: The Story so Far. Interim report on the state of the health care system in Canada, p. 81. http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/ Committee/371/pdf/interim-soci-e.pdf

In Canada, we have 150,000 to 300,000 people who are visibly homeless, and an additional 365,000 low income households are at risk of losing their homes. Meanwhile, the waiting list for social housing continues to grow: there are over 168,000 households on the waiting list in Ontario alone. Many persons with disabilities, especially Canadians with intellectual disabilities, are forced to live in congregative settings that do not offer them sufficient choice of where they live. A National housing strategy is required to reduce and eventually end homelessness and home insecurity in Canada.

Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities states: “Living independently and being included in the community

States Parties to the present Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:

(a) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement;

(b) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community;

(c) Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs.”

Recommendations:

56. The Government of Canada should develop in collaboration with all levels of government, indigenous organizations, organizations representing persons with disabilities, and other individuals living in precarious housing situations, a comprehensive National Strategy on Housing and Homelessness, and ensure that accessibility and affordability are key elements in such a Strategy

57. All governments in Canada should work collaboratively to provide a range of housing options that are available to persons with disabilities, especially individuals with intellectual and mental health disabilities so that choice will be available in where to live.

THE IMPORTANCE OF RELIABLE AND ACCESSIBLE POSTAL SERVICE:

Reliable and fully accessible postal service is important to all Canadians, especially individuals who are elderly or have a disability. The Council of Canadians With Disabilities (CCD) applauded the new government’s decision to suspend the introduction of additional community mailboxes, and has proposed that this moratorium be continued.

Community mailbox delivery poses a barrier to the independence of some Canadians with disabilities, especially persons with mobility or vision impairments. It makes some people with disabilities more dependent upon family and friends to pick up their mail. This could be particularly worrisome for women with disabilities living in abusive situations. They may not want their abuser having access to personal documents that come in the mail, such as bank statements.

Mail carriers (albeit unofficially) play a role in “looking out” for vulnerable people in their communities (whether they are people with disabilities or seniors, or both!) and can be the first to notice that the mail is accumulating and that something might be amiss.

Any proposal to end door-to-door service will make a service which is currently accessible, less accessible to people with disabilities, and that such a move would violate Canadas commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). When Canada ratified the Convention, it made a commitment to not do anything that would reduce already existing accessible services. (Article 4 of the CRPD)

Postal banking is not a new idea in Canada. It operated for 100 years, 1868-1968. It had millions in assets and tens of thousands of customers.

Postal banking is also in common use worldwide. The first nation to offer such a service was Great Britain in 1861, and over 60 countries still do. Many nations’ post offices operated or continue to operate postal savings systems to provide depositors who do not have access to banks with a safe, convenient method to save money and to promote saving among the poor.

Many rural towns and villages in Canada do not have a bank, but many of them have a post office that could provide financial services. Such a system could also be of great benefit to individuals living on First Nations reserves, which are often located in isolated areas. Canada Post has the workforce and the infrastructure to deliver financial services. Canada Post had a total of almost 6,400 postal outlets in 2012; 3,900 were Canada Post-owned and 2,500 were managed by private dealers as franchise outlets. 3,800 Canada Post outlets or 60% are in rural areas where there are fewer banks and credit unions.

Postal banking could also be of great benefit to social assistance recipients, who now must often rely on a variety of cheque cashing services when they do not have a bank account.

People need an alternative to payday lenders, somewhere they can go and not be gouged, said Mike Palecek, National President of CUPW. A postal bank could be that alternative.

Recommendations:

58. The governments decision to suspend the introduction of additional community mailboxes should be continued, and no new ones should be introduced.

59. Canada Post should work towards introducing postal banking throughout Canada, especially in rural areas where banks may not be conveniently located.

ENFORCEMENT:

Enforcement of the Act is of fundamental importance. In the past, other statutes have been enacted that have offered much promise, but have not been adequately enforced, either due to the lack of real government will or adequate resources to effectively enforce their provisions. This broad and extensive consultative process has created extensive expectations for improvements in the lives of Canadians with disabilities, and the Act, once in place, must deliver tangible and meaningful improvements!

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has been criticized for not doing enough to combat the extent of ongoing systemic discrimination facing persons with disabilities and other groups. Every year, the largest percentage of complaints received by all Human Rights bodies across Canada deal with the prohibited ground of Disability, particularly in the area of employment.

As a body that already deals with human rights, the Canadian Human Rights Commission should have primary responsibility for enforcement of the new Act.

The CHRC, however, will need additional resources if the Government of Canada expects it to adequately Enforce the new Act, and the CHRC must streamline its procedures and be more willing to accept complaints electronically.

section 41(1)(b) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. H-6

States:

The complaint is one that could more appropriately be dealt with, initially or completely, according to a procedure provided for under an Act of Parliament other than this Act.

There are court decisions in which the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada have developed the idea that the CTA and CRTC have jurisdiction over disability related complaints in the transportation and broadcasting contexts.

In the transportation context, a key decision is the Morten Federal Court decision(http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/fct/doc/2010/2010fc1008/2010fc1008.html)

In Morten at the Federal Court level, referring to the VIA case, Justice O’Keefe set out at paragraph 62 “the majority decision authored by Justice Abella determined that Parliament, with its enactment of the CTA, intended the Agency, and not the Commission, to assess barriers in the unique transportation context”.

Paragraph 68 of Justice O’Keefe’s decision in Morten is key. Speaking about whether the Canadian Human Rights Commission or CTA should have jurisdiction, he says “While one can conceive of cases where the Commission and Tribunal might have jurisdiction, that is not the situation on the facts of this case.”

In other words, the facts of the case and whether a complaint is really involves transportation will be critical in the determination under section 41(1)(b) of the CHRA by the Commission whether a complaint is more appropriately dealt with under another procedure.

Paragraph 69 of this decision is also important. It sets out:

“I am of the opinion that Parliament’s intention was that the Agency and not the Commission or Tribunal would handle such complaints when they relate to a carrier’s policies, tariffs or transportation regulations. It would not make sense if two distinctively separate administrative bodies competed for oversight and management of carriers’ policies and tariffs.”

To sum up, the court decisions are saying that Parliament generally intended for the CTA to deal with disability-related complaints when they arise in the transportation context, although there may be fact situations where it is appropriate for the CHRC to assert jurisdiction.

In the broadcasting context, the key decision is the Eadie decision from the Federal Court of Appeal (http://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/fca-caf/decisions/en/item/111001/index.do).

The decision declined to rule that the CRTC has exclusive jurisdiction. Much like in Morten, the Court of Appeal in Eadie seems to be suggesting that a close examination of the facts will be necessary to determine which body has jurisdiction. For example, at paragraph 70, the Federal Court of Appeal, expressed that a more profound examination of the facts was necessary to determine whether the subject matter of Mr. Eadies complaint actually dealt with broadcasting.

In Eadie, the Federal Court of Appeal stated the following at paragraph 103 “the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that statutory tribunals and administrative decision-makers who have the power to deal with questions of law must protect the rights set out in human rights legislation when dealing with matters within their jurisdiction by applying the principles of the CHRA”.

Paragraph 104 of the Eadie Federal Court of Appeal decision also says:

“The statutory provisions requiring the CHRC to consider whether there is another more appropriate forum to deal initially or completely with a complaint evidences the legislator’s intention that the CHRC must avoid “turf wars” and that the limited public resources of the CHRC should be used when really necessary to fulfill its mandate of ensuring compliance with the CHRA. Coordination among different administrative decision-makers should be the rule, not the exception.”

Recommendations:

60. The Canadian Human Rights Commission should be the primary body charged with enforcing the new National Accessibility and Inclusion Act.

61. The Government of Canada should provide the CHRC with additional resources to enable the Commission to effectively discharge its additional responsibilities.

62. The CHRC should devote more of its time and resources to combatting issues of systemic discrimination in order to have greater positive impact on equality seekers, including persons with disabilities.

63. The CHRC should streamline its procedures, and accept complaints electronically.

A COMMISSIONER OF DISABILITY AND INCLUSION:

It is the view of Dr Michael Prince, Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria, that accountability is the duty to answer, explain, and justify the exercise of public powers, the disbursement of public resources, and the achievement of public policy objectives. It includes an understanding that there is an obligation of public servants and government members to answer for their actions, and inactions, to legislative bodies and, through these bodies, to the public. He argues that accountability is central to our democratic system, that it motivates policy makers, administrators and service providers alike, and that it provides a measure of performance, prompts discussion of goals and results, and identifies areas for improvements.

In her Report, “A Federal Disability Act: Opportunities and Challenges” (A Paper Commissioned by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Canadian Association for Community Living, October 2006), Phyllis Gordon proposed the establishment of a Commissioner of Disability Issues and Inclusion. The Disability and Inclusion Commissioner would be auditing and making recommendations and identifying required universal design initiatives. Such an office should report directly to Parliament and by promoting the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in Canada, it would be designed to assist the Government of Canada to fulfill its agenda and commitments to building a society that is more accessible and inclusive and respectful of all Canadians.

The mission for the office of the Commissioner of Disability and Inclusion would be to promote accountable government, an ethical and effective public service, and ensure the social well-being and inclusion of persons with disabilities. The Commissioner’s mandate would be:

To report directly to Parliament as do other federal commissioners such as the commissioners for official languages, human rights, and privacy and information
To supplement and strengthen existing accountability mechanisms in Parliament, Cabinet, and the public service
To carry out an auditor or evaluator role in providing an independent assessment of disability programs and services delivered and funded by the federal government
Recommendation:

64. The Act should provide for the creation of the office of the Commissioner of Disability and Inclusion, to supplement and strengthen existing accountability mechanisms in Parliament, Cabinet, and the public service, and 63. the Commissioner should report directly to Parliament.

GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS:

Guidelines and/or standards can be used to direct the removal of barriers that result in the exclusion of persons with disabilities. The development of guidelines and standards requires technical expertise related to the area of activity that is being regulated, and their development must also be grounded in a full understanding of the lived experience of persons with disabilities. They also need to reflect an understanding of the different barriers that exist with respect to the wide range of the agility, mobility, sensory, learning and mental and intellectual disabilities that exist, whether visible or invisible. As well, a commitment to remaining current with developments in international standards and accessibility developments is essential.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which I have increasingly called the Great Disappointments Act, has adopted mandatory standards which have been enacted into regulations as its key strategy. The time taken in developing these Standards, and the failure of the Ontario Government to vigorously enforce these Standards has left Ontario well behind on its promised road to full accessibility by the year 2025. Thus, there is no reason to have confidence in Standards alone, to be effective they must be accompanied by plans for vigorous enforcement and the amendment of various existing statutes.

Recommendation:

65. The National Accessibility and Inclusion Act must not rely solely on Standards and/or Regulations, but must also include provisions for vigorous enforcement as well as the amendment of various existing federal statutes.

INQUIRIES AND REPORTS:

An inquiry can be formal or informal. It can draw public attention to an issue, seek public input, and investigate the issue in a comprehensive manner. It can make recommendations. The Obstacles and Andy Scott Task Force are examples of Reports that had considerable impact on Canadians with disabilities.

All federal government inquiries must ensure that full accessibility is a fundamental aspect of these inquiries so that Canadians with various disabilities will feel comfortable and able to take part.

Recommendation:

66. The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities should make greater use of its power to inquire into the situation facing persons with disabilities, and to make concrete recommendations for improvements.

TIME TO IMPLEMENT A NEW COURT CHALLENGES PROGRAM:

The former Court Challenges Program of Canada (CCPC) provided vital funding that enabled organizations to challenge federal government actions, and to test and attempt to extend coverage under Canadas Charter of Rights and Freedoms in both equality and language cases. A CCPC is essential to ensure access to justice for persons with disabilities in accordance with article 12 and 13 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Pursuing a Charter challenge is both expensive and very time consuming. If persons with disabilities do not have the means to access the courts, the rights to equality guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in human rights legislation may seem meaningless.

The Liberal Government announced plans to establish a new modernized Program, and allocated funding in the budget to give effect to this commitment. To date, and despite the holding of extensive consultations with equality seeking groups, no date has been announced for the commencement of this new Program, nor have we been told how it will be administered, and whether it will also cover cases involving provincial government actions.

Recommendation:

67. The promised new, modernized Court Challenges Program should be established expeditiously, and should provide funding for challenges against actions of both federal and provincial governments.

68. A modernized Court Challenges Program must include funding for individuals or organizations involved in interventions or test case litigation to consult and engage the members of the community or communities whose rights are at stake throughout the entire litigation process.

68. The ‘consultation funding’ which was provided under the previous CCPC should be extended to cover community engagement in all stages of the litigation process.

69. The proposed new CCPC must be protected from the whims of political change, and must be provided with a reliable, ongoing source of funding.

FUNDING FOR CONSUMER ORGANIZATIONS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES:

Citizen participation is a cornerstone of Canadian society and must be continually fostered and supported. While support for these organizations to diversify their sources of funding is desirable, organizations that focus on advocacy and policy development have had great difficulty attracting private funding, and there is no reason to believe this situation will change.

Consumer organizations such as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities play a pivotal role for government, as they tap the grass roots of the disability community throughout Canada, help to develop common positions from among a diverse range of organizations, and present these joint positions to government.

Recommendation:

71. The Government of Canada should continue a funding program such as the SDDP, and expand its funding to include some additional consumer organizations that have not previously been eligible for funding from this Program.

REGULAR REVIEW OF THE NATIONAL ACT:

The only thing that is constant in todays society is change.

Section 8.1 (1) of the Parks Canada Agency Act states:

The Minister shall, at least once every two years, convene a round table of persons interested in matters for which the Agency is responsible to advise the Minister on the performance by the Agency of its responsibilities under section 6.

Response of Minister

(2) The Minister shall respond within 180 days to any written recommendations submitted during a round table convened under subsection (1).

This Act offers Canadians an exempliary degree of input into the work of Parks Canada.

To ensure the provisions of the National Accessibility and Inclusion Act remain in line with changing realities and needs, it must be reviewed on a regular, periodic basis by an independent reviewer.

Recommendation:

72. The National Act should be reviewed regularly, at least every five years, by an outside, independent reviewer, who has extensive knowledge of the needs and aspirations of Canadians with various disabilities.

CONCLUSION:

The National Accessibility and Inclusion Act must be meaningful; it must contain strong enforcement mechanisms; and it must lead to tangible improvements in the lives of Canadians with various disabilities, including Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted.

The Act must include the amendment of a number of other statutes to help remove historic barriers and prevent the introduction of new barriers, thereby helping to implement in concrete ways Canadas obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It must help alleviate the level of chronic and ongoing poverty which remains the lived experience of far too many Canadians with disabilities, and it must provide for greater direct involvement of Canadians with lived experiences and their organizations in the development and implementation of new legislation, policies and programs that will implement the promise of the new Act.

Robin East and I, in an article entitled, Beyond the Social Model of Disability, (Working Policy, Fall 2016, Volume 2, Issue 2), stated in part:

The ongoing inadequate level of representation of persons with disabilities and our organizations has made it easy for the needs and aspirations of our community to be simply ignored or even callously disregarded when important decisions about us are being made. It is now time to move beyond the social model of disability and focus more on actions, outcomes, and concrete changes. Whether in the university departments where the research agenda is too often determined, the ministry offices where decisions about government policies are made, the newsrooms where decisions about which stories will be covered, the political party offices where platforms are developed, the boardrooms where decisions about hiring policies are set, the offices where decisions about the manufacture of new products are determined, or the municipal planning departments where policies about community access are determined, the one seventh of our population, persons with disabilities have never been adequately resourced and consulted.

This Act has the opportunity to help to redress at least part of our historic oppression and exclusion.

The governments broad consultative process has created extensive expectations throughout the disability community that the new Act will create changes and improvements in the lived experiences of Canadians with disabilities. The Government of Canada through this new Act must deliver on these expectations!

*** End of Brief

Brief To:

Consultation Accessibility Legislation
c/o Office for Disability Issues
Employment and Social Development Canada
105, rue Hôtel de Ville, 1st floor, Bag 62
Gatineau, QC K1A 0J9

Brief From:

John Rae
#304 192 Jarvis Street
Toronto, ON M5B 2J9
E-mail: thepenguin@rogers.com

Profile photo of Mary-Jo Fetterly

About the Author: Mary-Jo Fetterly

Hello, I’m Mary-Jo and I am passionate about accessibility and inclusion. I am very excited to be a curator for this Hub, which is presented by the Rick Hansen Foundation. Since my spinal cord injury in 2004, I have been involved with, or alongside the RH Foundation in working toward a more inclusive, accessible world. Living with paralysis is direct exposure to the challenges and issues that face millions of people worldwide. In my work with professional and civic organizations including current appointments at City of Vancouver – Person’s With Disability Advisory Committee, Vancouver Resources Society, Civil Rights Now and The RHI Consumer Advisory Panel – I experience the complexity of addressing the issues to deliver relevant and meaningful change. Here is where The Hub, and you and I come in. With our professional and direct relationships on matters of access and inclusion we can accelerate the pace of change through the sharing of resources, knowledge and ideas. We are all contributor’s here, so please join us on this new and innovative platform. You are welcome to email me and I look forward to seeing you here, on ‘The Hub’. Read more posts from Mary-Jo Fetterly.

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