Summary Note: Bill C-81 Parliamentary Study - Thursday October 4, 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 4, 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 - Thursday October 4, 2018

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

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

Committee Meeting October 4, 2018

8:45am – 10:45am

Witnesses included representatives from Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), and Canada Post Corporation.

CHRC recommended a specific change in wording to section 117.1 that would change the word "may" to "shall" and add "which may include" to the end of the paragraph. They also proposed 117.1 c. add the words "and timelines for their implementation" to the end of the sentence. Their proposed wording would read:

117 (1) Subject to sections 118 to 120, the Governor in Council shall make regulations which may include:
(c) establishing standards intended to remove barriers and to improve accessibility in the areas referred to in section 5 and timelines for their implementation;

Conservative MP John Barlow (Foothills, AB) questioned how adding new layers of bureaucracy would help remove barriers, noting that more bureaucracy does not always help. Yazmine Laroche, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, Treasury Board Secretariat, said, "I am not another layer of bureaucracy." She noted that her new task team will serve to connect the dots and coordinate the efforts of the public service to collaborate on policies and practices and provide harmonized oversight. Marcella Daye from CHRC said it may appear as bureaucracy, but the agencies will lean on each other for various roles. She also noted that Bill C-81 provides authorities and requirements for public sector agencies to work together to ensure complaints find their way without confusion and barriers at the front end – echoing the "no wrong door" approach the Minister spoke of on Tuesday.

Liberal MP Wayne Long (Saint John—Rothesay, NB) said he believes the issue with timelines is that people will wait until the timelines are nearly up and said that technically they act as a deterrent. Marcella Daye responded that timelines are a concern for people who want change fast, and for regulated bodies who want to make impactful change in a timely manner. She suggested that part of progressive realization is that timelines will always be changing – but there should be timelines to put regulations in place. Yazmine Laroche noted that TBS is not waiting for C-81 to receive royal assent – they're moving ahead with accessibility measures now.

Conservative MP Rosemary Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK) questioned how the newly proposed Accessibility Commissioner is different than the current Human Rights Commissioner. She also noted that the Accessibility Commissioner will have the ability to enter a place to check compliance and questioned whether there is a risk that this power could infringe on Charter Rights. Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner, said the Accessibility Commissioner will have a specific mandate to audit and receive complaints regarding accessibility, and noted that the Human Rights Commissioner has a broader mandate. Marcella Daye noted that the Accessibility Commissioner would be more like an auditor – making an appointment, being guided, and gathering information. She said it would operate less like a SWAT team, and more like an inspector.

MP Falk also asked about the impact on rural communities, specifically small local businesses that are authorized dealers for Canada Post. She said she is concerned they will have to shoulder the costs associated with compliance. Jessica L. McDonald, Chair of the Board of Directors and Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of Canada Post Corporation, said the contracts with Canada Post outlets already specify that facilities must comply with legislation. She said they do not have a cost analysis yet, but that Canada Post is working on assessing all of their physical infrastructure – from outlets, to transportation and internal locations. Ms. McDonald also noted that as one of Canada's largest employers, Canada Post Corp. has a lot of discovery ahead regarding how they can best accommodate their employees but will act within the spirit and intent of the Bill.

Other questions from Members centred around board composition for CASDO, and the application of Bill C-81 to Indigenous communities.

Future summaries will be sent after the completion of ongoing committee study meetings. 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