Summary Note: Bill C-81 Parliamentary Study - Tuesday October 23, 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 24, 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 - Tuesday October 23, 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 24, 2018
Witnesses included:

Canadian Bankers Association: Marina Mandal, Assistant General Counsel and Tasmin Waley, Senior Legal Counsel
Canadian Disability Policy Alliance: Mary Ann McColl, Professor, Queen's University
Royal Bank of Canada: Teri Monti, Vice President, Employee Relations
Accessible Media Inc.: David Errington, President and Chief Executive Officer
ARCH Disability Law Centre: Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director and Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission: Scott Shortliffe, Chief Consumer Officer and Executive Director, Mary-Louise Hayward, Manager, Social and Consumer Policy and Adam Balkovec, Legal Counsel

The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) started the discussion by agreeing that Bill C-81 is good for business. They stated that the legislation needs to strike the right balance between principles based and prescriptive and noted that CBA is continually working on the design of products and services. Mary Ann McColl of the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance (CDPA) focused on the need for a disability lens to be applied to all future legislation. She said any disability lens would need to be easily understood, assume no prior knowledge of disability, and be evidence based. Ms. McColl was representing a tool that was developed by CDPA that asked users to state their assumptions and then examine them. It also looks at the definition of disability within legislation, and considers who determines who is eligible to be considered for each piece of legislation (ie CPP, disability tax credit, etc.). She gave a copy of the tool to each committee member. Teri Monti from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) noted that RBC has enterprise accessibility guidelines that are aligned with global accessibility practices. She also said RBC branches have verbal way finding inside. ARCH Disability Law Centre (ARCH) said they want to see exemptions limited so the Bill sends a strong message that accessibility is everyone's responsibility. They recommended the minister and regulated entities provide benchmarks for a Canada without barriers and provide specific and progressive timelines. They also want to see one central agency to oversee compliance and adjudicate complaints.

MP John Barlow (Foothills, AB) said the legislation contained a two-tier system where there is a large number of exemptions available for government departments, but federally regulated private sector groups aren't able to access the same exemptions. He asked if there should be an even playing field for exemptions. Ms. McColl said she would expect the same standard across the board, but noted that the mechanism to ensure that standard might be different in government. The CBA echoed this, saying that the focus needed to be on the intended outcome. They said the government has displayed a commitment to that outcome and that there should be a level playing field from an outcomes based perspective, but there might be different ways of getting there.

MP Long told a story of a constituent saying her world had been opened up by a specific accommodation measure, and he asked if taking action to enhance accessibility is more than just an investment. Ms. McColl said most people who have made accommodations are surprised at how small the costs are, and noted that the cost to retrofit is much more significant. RBC echoed this, saying a lot of accommodation costs nothing.

MP Hogg asked what we might learn from other jurisdictions who have implemented similar legislation. Ms. McColl said that our natural comparators, the United States and the United Kingdom, have gone an anti-discrimination route, and she's pleased that Canada went an access and inclusion route instead. She said Ontario stands out as having tackled society wide standards.

MP Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords-Lloydminster, SK) asked ARCH if they had suggestions for timelines or benchmarks. Kerri Joffe said ARCH supports calls from other disability organizations that there should be timelines attached to Section 5 of the Bill. She said that we need to insert benchmarks and timelines within the development of the standard process to ensure we reach markers for progressive realization. She said as it is written, there is nothing required when the Bill receives Royal Assent. MP Falk also asked what would happen if an individual brought a complaint to the wrong regulated body. Ms. Joffe said we do not yet know how that would roll out in each agency, in the absence of regulations.

MP Robert Morrissey (Egmont, PE) asked if the goal should be to always try to achieve more accessibility or to achieve a static accessibility goal. Robert Lattanzio said ARCH does not see having timelines as accepting a static accessibility goal. He said that ARCH sees timelines as a way to move forward.

MP Long commented on the "no wrong door" approach taken by this legislation. He asked if this wasn't a step in the right direction. Ms. Joffe said that when you have an overly complex system, it is best to remedy the system instead of creating a band aid solution. Scott Shortliffe said the CRTC is forming working groups to make sure that they process complaints that come to them even if they come to the wrong door.

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