Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Is First National Leader to Write the AODA Alliance to Pledge to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act
ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 19, 2019 Toronto: In the federal election, the NDP is the first federal party to write the AODA Alliance to commit to strengthen the recently-enacted Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that public money is never used to create barriers against over six million people with disabilities. In its July 18, 2019 letter to the major party leaders, the non-partisan AODA Alliance requested 11 specific commitments to strengthen the ACA and to ensure its swift and effective implementation and enforcement. (Summary of 11 requests set out below). On September 16, 2019, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh became the first, and to date, the only federal leader to answer this request. In the NDP’s letter, set out below, Mr. Singh makes several of the commitments the AODA Alliance sought.
“We’ve gotten commitments from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, so now we aim to get the other federal party leaders to meet or beat those commitments,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “We and other disability advocates together got the Accessible Canada Act introduced into Parliament, and then got it strengthened somewhat over the past year before it was passed in June. It has helpful ingredients, but is too weak. We are seeking commitments to ensure that this law gets strengthened, and that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced.”
In Parliament, the Liberals have made promising statements about what the new law would achieve for people with disabilities. Commitments are now sought to turn those statements into assured action.
Even though Parliament unanimously passed the ACA, the federal parties were substantially divided on whether it went far enough to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The Tories, NDP and Greens argued in Parliament for the bill to be made stronger, speaking on behalf of diverse voices from the disability community. Last year, the Liberals voted down most of the proposed opposition amendments that were advanced on behalf of people with disabilities.
Last spring, the Senate called for new measures to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities. The ACA does not ensure this.
Among the disability organizations that are raising disability issues in this election, the AODA Alliance is spearheading a blitz to help the grassroots press these issues on the hustings, in social media and at all-candidates’ debates. The AODA Alliance is tweeting candidates across Canada to solicit their commitments and will make public any commitments that the other party leaders make. Follow @aodaalliance. As a non-partisan effort, the AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate.
The AODA Alliance is also calling on the Federal Government and Elections Canada to ensure for the first time that millions of voters with disabilities can vote in this election without fearing that they may encounter accessibility barriers in the voting process.
Contact: David Lepofsky, email@example.com Twitter: @aodaalliance
For background on the AODA Alliance ‘s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada
September 16, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh
From: Jagmeet Singh
Date: September 16, 2019 at 10:54:40 AM EDT
Subject: RE: Seeking All Parties’ election commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to your questionnaire.
Please find the NDP’s response attached.
All the best,
Attachment: NDP Response: Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1. Will you enact or amend legislation to require the Federal Government, the CTA
and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the ACA covers within four years? If not, will you commit that those regulations will be enacted under the ACA within four years?
We can do much more to make Canada an inclusive and barrier-free place. As a start, New Democrats will uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to cover all federal agencies equally with the power to make accessibility standards in a timely manner.
The NDP made multiple attempts to include implementation of timelines. During Committee meetings of Persons Living with Disabilities, the Government was presented with overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to which parts of the bill needed amending. The amendments proposed by us aligned with the leading experts’ proposals. The Government brought no one forward to rebut this testimony. They listened but rejected almost all of the amendments brought forward by the opposition parties. A New Democrat government will work hard to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in a timely fashion.
2. Will your party commit to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced?
Yes, it’s critical to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced. Once again, the NDP made multiple attempts to ensure the ACA is effectively enforced. During Committee, the Government was presented with overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to which parts of the bill needed amending. The amendments proposed by us were taken from their proposals. The Government brought no one forward to rebut
this testimony. They listened but rejected almost all of the amendments brought forward by the opposition parties.
3. Will your party ensure by legislation, and if not, then by public policy, that no one will use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g., payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity?
The Liberal government missed a sizable opportunity in C-81. Federal money should never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate disability barriers. We proposed such an amendment during committee hearing.
Our ultimate goal is to help foster a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. We believe that this cannot happen
until all of our institutions are open and completely accessible to everyone. The NDP would require that federal public money would never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, including federal money received for procurement; infrastructure; transfer payments; research grants; business development loans or grants, or for any other kind of payment, including purpose under a contract.
4. Will your party amend the ACA to provide that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the ACA or in any regulations enacted under it or in any actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law?
Yes, if a provision of the Act or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any
other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.
5. Will your party repeal the offending portion of section 172(3) of the ACA that
reads “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”” And replace them with words such as: “and grant a remedy in accordance with subsection 2.”?
We will review section 172(3) of the ACA a take the appropriate corrective measures to make
sure airlines and railways pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up.
6. Will your party assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet? If not, then at a minimum, would your party require by legislation or policy that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or
as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner?
Yes. The Liberal government`s Bill C-81 wrongly gave several public agencies or officials far too much sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions
to specific organizations from important parts of this bill. C-81 separated enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. Rather it should be providing people with disabilities with what they need: the single service location or, one-stop shop..
We will assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet.
7. Will your Party review all federal laws to identify any which require or permit any barriers against people with disabilities, and will your party amend Section 2 of the ACA (definition of “barrier”) to add the words “a law”, so that it will read: “barrier means anything including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental,
intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory
impairment or a functional limitation.”
The NDP has long been committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. It has been our longstanding position that all of governmentevery budget,
every policy and regulationshould be viewed through a disability lens. The NDP has supported the establishment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act for many years.
8. Will your party pass legislation or regulations and adopt policies needed to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.
New Democrats have always fought to remove the barriers keeping persons with disabilities from living with dignity and independence, because when barriers are removed all Canadians are empowered to participate fully in society and we all benefit.
We brought forward amendments to C-81 that require the Accessibility Commissioner to appoint, within 12 months of the bill being enacted, an independent person (with no current or prior involvement in administering elections) to conduct an Independent Review of disability barriers in the election process, with a requirement to consult the public, including persons with disabilities, and to report within 12 months to the Federal Government. Their report should immediately be made public. Additionally, we would require the Federal Government to designate a minister with responsibility to bring forward a bill to reform elections legislation within 12 months of the completion of that Independent Review.
9. Will your Party eliminate or reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes? Such as eliminating the power to exempt the Government of Canada, or a federal department or agency? If not, will your party commit not to grant any exemptions from the ACA?
Nine years ago, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities (CRPD). Though the Liberal government has tabled a new Accessibility Act, its’ exemptions mean C-81 falls short of meeting Canada’s goal of creating an inclusive and barrier-free country. An NDP government will reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes.
10. Will your party develop and implement a plan to ensure that all federally-operated courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts), and federally operated regulatory tribunals (like the CRTC and CTA) become accessible.
The amendment we brought forward during the C-81 proceedings would have required the
Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Government, to develop and implement a multi-
year plan to ensure that all federally controlled courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and
Federal Courts) as well as federally-created administrative tribunals become fully accessible to
court participants with disabilities, by the bill’s accessibility deadline. This should adopt and
build upon the work of the Ontario Courts Accessibility Committee, which oversees efforts on accessibility for provincially-regulated courts in Ontario.
11. Would your party pass the amendments to the ACA which the opposition proposed in the fall of 2018 in the House of Commons, which the Government had defeated, and which would strengthen the ACA?
Absolutely! 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. New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal Party rhetoric.
Summary of the Election Pledges that the AODA Alliance Sought In Its July 18, 2019 Letter to the Federal Party Leaders
The specific pledges we seek include:
1. Enforceable accessibility standard regulations should be enacted within four years.
2. The ACA should be effectively enforced.
3. Federal public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers.
4. The ACA should never reduce the rights of people with disabilities.
5. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.
6. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in One federal agency, not splintered among several of them.
7. No federal laws should ever create or permit disability barriers.
8. Federal elections should be made accessible to voters with disabilities.
9. Power to exempt organizations from some ACA requirements should be eliminated or reduced.
10. Federally-controlled courts and tribunals should be made disability-accessible.
11. Proposed Opposition amendments to the ACA that were defeated in the House of Commons in 2018 and that would strengthen the ACA should be passed.