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Federal Liberals Promise to Use a Disability Lens in All Government Decisions – View This Pledge Through the Lens of Some Helpful Context

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Twitter: @aodaalliance

October 18, 2019


In a news article published today, just three days before the federal election, the Canadian Press reported that the federal Liberals have committed that if re-elected, they will apply a “disability lens” to all Federal Government decisions. We set out the October 18, 2019 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, below, which was posted on the National Post’s website.

It would be very helpful for the Federal Government to apply a disability lens to all of its decisions, to ensure that they do not work against people with disabilities. We provide some context to this commitment.

First, as reported in the Canadian Press article, below, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough appears to implicitly acknowledge that the new Accessible Canada Act, whose development she led, does not require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens to each of its decisions. That, regrettably, would be an accurate reading of the Accessible Canada Act. Minister Qualtrough also is reported in this article as saying that the Liberals would not make any amendments to the Accessible Canada Act. As such, this disability lens would be a voluntary measure that any future Federal Government could reject without needing to bring it before Parliament for a vote.

Second, during debates over the Accessible Canada Act over the past year, opposition members pointed out (at the request of disability advocates) that this proposed legislation lacked such a disability lens. They urged that a requirement for a disability lens should be added to the bill. None ultimately was added.

The Federal Government had an ideal opportunity to establish such a disability lens in Bill C-81 when it was before Parliament, and when all parties were focused on the need for national accessibility legislation. It is difficult to understand why the Federal Government did not add a disability lens then, and yet promises a voluntary disability lens now, just four months after Parliament passed Bill C-81. It would be preferable to entrench a disability lens into the Accessible Canada Act through an amendment once the new Parliament is elected. The AODA Alliance expects to propose such an amendment.

Third, during Second Reading debates last year in the House of Commons over Bill C-81, Liberal MP Kent Hehr actually said that Bill C-81 includes a disability lens, and praised the bill for having it. He had earlier been the Government’s minister responsible for developing this legislation for about half a year. On September 24, 2018, during Second Reading debates in the House of Commons, Mr. Hehr made these two statements on point:

1. “I can also highlight this bill and its effects on government service. The day and age of people not getting through the door is essentially over with this legislation. It puts a proactive onus on government to move forward and look at things with an accessibility lens that I believe will be very helpful for people with disabilities and those trying to navigate an often complex system.”

2. “I mentioned at the start of my speech that there are still very many inequalities in this country. In particular, people with disabilities are more likely to be poor and have difficulties finding employment, even getting services through government departments. This legislation would put that proactive emphasis on governments and systems within the federal jurisdiction having an accessibility lens to look at how we are not only going to get people through the door but help them come out the other side and succeed, whether it be through employment, accessing technology or getting government services. It is now incumbent upon us as government to follow through with what would be put in place through this legislation to make things better for people with disabilities in this country.”

We also alert you to the news that as this election campaign races to its conclusion, CTV national news broke the overwhelming silence of most conventional media outlets on this issue. It led its October 17, 2019 national television newscast with a report on how the parties have had so little to say in this campaign about accessibility for people with disabilities, and how voters with disabilities are unhappy with this. We do not have the text of this news report at this time. It can be watched online by visiting

You can read our non-partisan comparison of the parties’ commitments on disability accessibility (which was written yesterday, and hence before this Canadian Press news report) by visiting

Follow @aodaalliance on Twitter for up-to-the-instant updates on our analysis of election returns as they come in, from the perspective of our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.


National Post Online October 28, 2019

Liberals vow to implement disability lens for all government policies if re-elected The Canadian Press
Michelle McQuigge
October 18, 2019
The federal Liberals say they will evaluate all existing and future government policies for their impact on disabled residents if voted back into power next week.

The pledge from Carla Qualtrough, the Liberals minister for accessibility issues, comes days before Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21 and shortly after disabled voters raised concerns about the lack of discussion of issues affecting their lives during the current campaign.

The Liberals released a disability equality statement earlier this week, a document that was not in their original platform.

Qualtrough clarified its contents in an interview with The Canadian Press, saying the party was committing to applying a disability lens to government decisions, a formal consideration of how each would affect people with disabilities.

The Liberals mandated that all policies be subjected to a gender-based analysis over the past several years, assessing whether government policies are affecting men and women in different ways.

Qualtrough says the Liberals would take the same approach with disability, reviewing existing policies and studying new ones to make sure government moves dont exclude or adversely affect anyone.

This is the next step, to kind of systematically entrench disability inclusion into the way government does business, into the way government makes decisions, she said in a telephone interview from Delta, B.C., where she is seeking re-election.

Qualtrough said such analysis would build upon the Accessible Canada Act, the countrys first federal piece of accessibility legislation, which passed into law in June. The act was the fulfillment of a 2015 Liberal campaign promise and is widely seen as a milestone in disability rights, though dozens of advocacy groups have expressed concern that its currently too weak to be effective.

Qualtrough said a re-elected Liberal government does not plan to amend the law, but said a disability lens would offer additional safeguards. The partys new equality statement also pledges timely implementation of the new act.

The Liberal announcement earned praise from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a national advocacy group that has been calling for such analysis for years.

During the national consultation that led to the ACA, council members argued the government needed to duplicate the approach used for gender when considering disability issues.

The Liberals applied gender-based-analysis-plus, which extends to characteristics such as age, religion and ethnicity, to a federal budget for the first time in 2017 and mandated it be used across the board. But internal documents obtained earlier this year showed fewer than half of departments and agencies had GBA+ plans in place.

Council spokesman John Rae said adopting the same approach for disability would be an important practice that may ensure disabled voices are heard even if they arent in the room to speak up for themselves.

We arent present in sufficient numbers in places where decisions about important aspects of life are made, Rae said. Its very easy for our needs to get overlooked if not consciously ignored.

Rae declined to comment on the timing of the Liberal announcement, but said he hoped other parties would follow suit.

Despite the recent passage of the ACA, neither the Liberals nor the other federal parties had made significant reference to disability issues for the bulk of the election campaign.

The Green party did not respond to request for comment on accessibility measures, and the Peoples Party of Canada said its platform contained no policy related to disabled persons.

The NDP did not provide comment to The Canadian Press, but made several commitments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act in a letter sent to an Ontario-based disability advocacy group.

The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures, reads the NDPs letter to the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal party rhetoric.

The Conservatives, too, pledged to work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities.

At a Thursday campaign stop in Brampton, Ont., leader Andrew Scheer said his party would implement the ACA and criticized the Liberals for their handling of other disability-related files.

We made commitments to make it easier to qualify for the disability tax credit, something that Justin Trudeaus government made harder especially for people with Type 1 diabetes, he said.

While campaigning in Trois-Rivieres, Que., also on Thursday, Trudeau said his governments approach was about fundamental equality, adding there is more to be done to achieve that goal.

Some disabled voters expressed concerns about the handful of relevant promises that have been put forward on the campaign trail. In addition to pledging expanded eligibility for the disability tax credit, the Conservatives have said they would implement a $50-million national autism strategy focusing on research and services for children. The NDP and Greens have followed suit with similar proposals and larger pots of cash.

While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults said theyd prefer to see their concerns addressed in a broader strategy focusing on disability as a whole.

We face similar issues that people with other disabilities face, said Anne Borden of the self-advocacy group Autistics For Autistics. We all need access, human rights, dignity, self-determination We have more in common across our disabilities than any differences.

Qualtrough said she, too, favours that approach.

I am very much a proponent of a more overarching strategy that includes everyone and doesnt focus on diagnosis, she said, adding that research focusing on individual disabilities still has value and should be encouraged.