CCD Chairperson's Update: April 2011

CCD Dismayed Family with a Disabled Child Ordered Deported

On 14 April 2011, CCD participated in a Press Conference in Montreal, with the Barlagne family who are seeking a Ministerial Permit from the Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney that would allow them to stay in Canada. Their application to immigrate was denied because they have a child with a disability. Immigration Canada contends that paying $5,259 per year for Rachel Barlagne's education would be an excessive burden on Canada, so they ordered her family to leave Montreal and abandon the life and business they are building in Canada. CCD called upon the Minister of Immigration to allow the Barlagne family to remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds. CCD has long sought amendment of the Immigration Act to remove the “excessive demand” clause that prohibits persons with disabilities from immigration to Canada if they have a disability.

CCD Appears before CRTC

This year a number of Canadian broadcasters are having their applications for license renewal reviewed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). On 8 April 2011, CCD Vice Chair John Rae and Jim Roots, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of the Deaf appeared before the CRTC on behalf of CCD. John and Jim presented to the Commissioners the highlights of a brief CCD had prepared for the Commission.

CCD called upon the CRTC to follow a human rights model when regulating Canadian broadcasters on the access issues of persons with disabilities. John Rae told the CRTC Commissioners that “What we do need from this hearing, given that it may cover seven years of renewed licenses, is significant additional regulation by the Commission to accelerate the amount of original Canadian programming that is fully accessible in the area of new ways of broadcasting. We do believe the Commission needs to regulate the Internet.” He spoke passionately against making any aspect of access a matter of voluntary compliance. “[I]t's always been hard for me to understand that the Commission may regulate who gets licenses, what level of Canadian programming may be provided, but it doesn't seem to regulate all the ways in which we as customers receive that programming. What we find is that any reliance on voluntarism has been a failure to the disabled community, not just in this area but equally in the areas of transportation, in the areas of development of products, and so forth. We find that continues today and so it's understandable that we have less than great faith in the private sector to do things on its own without regulation….” John continued, “So what we are seeking are mainstream solutions to mainstream access issues. The presence of The Accessible Channel (TAC) was not intended, either by you, the CRTC, or by TAC itself as a reason or an excuse for mainstream media to either drag their feet or fail to move on access and nor must it be allowed to do so.” During his presentation John also addressed the need for broadcasters to employ a representative number of people with disabilities in their workforces. He stated, “More needs to be done, not only in the areas that I have mentioned, but also employing more of us. I think that all sectors of the broadcast industry would benefit by hiring more individuals with disabilities so that the kind of expertise that they now seek outside of their organizations could be right there, right inside. After all, when decisions are being made, if we aren't there it's far, far too easy to forget about us.”

During his presentation, Jim Roots focused on the barriers that the Deaf community is seeking to have remedied. He began his presentation by noting progress made to date. “There have been a lot of improvements in recent years. At least five channels now caption almost everything, because one of our representatives, Henry Vlug, won human rights complaints to force them to do so,” Jim stated. “We want to applaud you on your new attitude towards captioning complaints. Now when we complain you take some action. Please keep it up. But do more than that, make sure that the licensees keep the promises they make in response to these complaints.” He also addressed five significant barriers needing the CRTC’s attention: captioning standards, captioning quality, the effect that the move to digital television is having on captioning, uncaptioned live programing and emergency programing, and lack of captioning on broadcaster webcasts. To summarize, Jim urged the CRTC to put its regulatory weight behind quality captioning on 100 percent of broadcasters’ programming, regardless if that programming is telecast or webcast.

CCD Access to Technology Committee Met in Winnipeg

On 29 April 2011, CCD’s Access to Technology, which is co-chaired by John Rae and Gary Birch, met in Winnipeg. The members of this Committee are: Jeff Stark, Valerie Wolbert, Shelley Rattai, Jim Roots, Henry Vlug. During the meeting, the Committee drafted a Terms of Reference and a workplan.

Access to the Electoral Process

During the Federal election campaign, CCD reminded candidates of their responsibility to run accessible campaigns. CCD also provided a disability rights analysis of the Parties’ platforms and shared information about the measures taken by Elections Canada to make voting accessible to persons with disabilities.