Summary Note: Bill C-81 Parliamentary Study - Monday October 22, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

As you are aware Parliament is presently holding hearings on Bill C-81 (The Accessible Canada Act).  The CNIB has undertaken to provide brief daily summaries of these hearings, and they have generously agreed to allow CCD to have them translated for circulation across the country, in both English and French.  Therefore, please find attached the CNIB summary for the hearing on October 22, 2018.  We will continue to translate and share these summaries as quickly as we are able.  Meantime thanks to the CNIB for this collaboration! 

Steven Estey
Government & Community Relations Manager
Council of Canadians with Disabilities
343 Preston Street, 11th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1S 1N4

Summary Note: Bill C-81 Parliamentary Study - Monday October 22, 2018

Please find a summary of the Parliamentary Committee study on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. Thank you to Alice Clark, Specialist, Government Relations and Policy, for monitoring and reporting on these meetings.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

Committee Meeting October 22, 2018
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Witnesses included:

Canadian Transportation Agency: Scott Streiner, Chair and Chief Executive Officer
Vancouver Airport Authority: Craig Richmond, President and Chief Executive Officer
VIA Rail Canada Inc.: Yves Desjardins-Sicillano, President and Chief Executive Officer and John-Nicolas Morello, Senior Legal Counsel, Legal and Corporate Affairs
Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association: Robert W.J. Ghiz, President and Chief Executive Officer and Ursula Grom, Senior Director, Industry Affairs
Communication Disabilities Access Canada: Barbara Collier, Executive Director
Council of Canadians with Disabilities: Jewelles Smith, Chairperson  and Steven Estey, Government and Community Relations Officer

Craig Richmond from Vancouver Airport Authority started by noting that airports operate as not for profit organizations and do not receive federal money. He said additional feedback and reporting requirements will lead to a considerable burden on small airports, which would be better off spending money to tackle barriers than writing reports. Scott Streiner from the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) said that ensuring Canadians with disabilities can travel independently and with dignity is within CTA's DNA. He said the CTA is working towards coherent, well aligned approaches to this mandate with other federal agencies. Yves Desjardins-Sicillano of VIA Rail said VIA is currently working to retrofit the Ottawa station and is working to devise a way for people with sight loss disabilities to find their way from the front door to their train seat independently.

Jewelles Smith from Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) said they wanted to see challenging timelines in the legislation; as Canada is not the first country to put accessibility in legislation, Ms. Smith said the government can easily meet a 5 year timeline. She said CCD would also like to see the act better address effective management and complaints because fractured management makes it difficult for Canadians with disabilities to have their needs met. CCD is also advocating for ASL and LSQ to be acknowledged as official languages for deaf individuals, for a CASDO makeup of 2/3 persons with disabilities, for federally regulated entities to be arms length from government, and for Indigenous peoples with disabilities to be consulted. Robert Ghiz from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) said it was difficult to provide feedback without a more detailed sense of the regulations that would follow. He urged for continued consultation after the bill is passed. Barbara Collier of Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) said they want to see the bill amended to include communication as a building block that needs to be put in place at all jurisdictions.

MP Diane Finley (Haldimand-Norfolk, ON) said that there are dramatic differences in accessibility across airports. She asked if Bill C-81 would change this, and if so, how. Mr. Streiner said the CTA is working on new accessible transportation regulations that will include a section of provisions for airports to ensure more consistent service delivery. Ms. Finley also asked what the financial impact of this unfunded mandate will be on smaller airports. Craig Richmond said whatever the government could do to make reporting requirements as reasonable as possible would go a long way.

MP Hogg asked what areas Canada is falling behind in, and what impact this Bill will have on these areas. Mr. Streiner said the CTA targets efforts where the risk or impact of non-compliance is the highest, and that C-81 would give compliance enforcement officers additional tools to ensure compliance.

MP Hardcastle (Windsor-Tecumseh, ON) said that there are no requirement or timelines in the bill, and that the CTA is exempt and do not have to offer a rationalization for their decision. She also said that there is no appeals process for the disability community. She asked Mr. Streiner if this needed to change before the passage of C-81. He said they have a current exemption power that they've never used. Mr. Richmond said that if an airport is falling short on accessibility, the bill needs to allow an opportunity for the airport to voluntarily fix what's wrong.

MP Falk (Battlefords-Lloydminster, SK) asked how stakeholders are looking to have plain language put into the legislation. Ms. Collier said that if communication is added as a building block, then a standard could follow outlining the principles of easy read or plain language.

MP Long asked about the composition of the CASDO board, referencing an earlier conversation with Ms. Smith where she advocated for 100% persons with disability on CASDO. Ms. Smith said people with disabilities exist everywhere and that if the composition is only 50%, there may not be enough perspective of different disability issues. She said CCD and other disability organizations are advocating for 2/3 composition.

MP Hardcastle asked Mr. Estey and Ms. Smith about the operational independence of organizations like CASDO, and they both agreed that they would be better suited to report to parliament, and exist arms length from government.

MPs Ruimy, Young, and Finley all asked questions about timelines. MP Ruimy said the scope of the legislation is so enormous that to legislate every piece wouldn't get Canada where it needs to go. MP Finley said there is so much flexibility in the bill as it is written that it will never come into force. She said the good intentions won't take the legislation anywhere. Mr. Estey said the first reading of the Nova Scotia Accessibility legislation did not contain timelines either. He said timelines are essential to ensure there is a backstop against which we can measure.

Please share with those who may be interested

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or Alice Clark.

Thomas Simpson
Head, Public Affairs
1355 Bank St, Ottawa ON, K1H 8K7