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Leading to Passage of The Accessibility Advisory Council Act 

Barrier-Free Manitoba first met with the provincial officials in September 2008 to call for strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation. We had called for this legislation to be introduced, passed and proclaimed before the general provincial election that was scheduled for October 2011.

What followed was three years of hard work and we came ever so close to reaching our goal. But at the last minute, the government decided to stop short of introducing the actual accessibility-rights legislation. Instead, the governemnt took a partial but important step forward by introducing Bill 47. Wehnpassed, this bill became The Accessibility Advisory Council Act. 

This web page provides a run-through of the major activities and developments that led to the passage of this act on June 16, 2011.

The Final Act Now Posted

The final and completed version of The Accessibility Advisory Council Act is now posted on the Legislative Assembly web site.

The Next Steps Forward are Now the Law: A Recap

When things happen at the Legislature, they can happen quickly. Bill 47: The Accessibility Advisory Council Act was introduced on June 1. It became the law in the province in just over two weeks,

For those who may have struggled to keep up, the Bill passed Third Reading on June 16 with all-party support in a unanimous vote of the Legislature. The Bill came into force later that same day when it received Royal Assent.

The new law requires that the provincial government complete the following steps forward within set time lines.

Within the next 3 months (on or before September 16, 2011)

The minister must make the first appointments to the Advisory Council.

Within the next 12 months (on or before June 16, 2012)

The Advisory Council must make its initial recommendations to the minister. These recommendations must be made public, followed by 45 days for public comment and feedback.

Within 90 days after the period for public comment ends (on or before November 1, 2012)

The minister must provide written comment to the Advisory Council on the Council’s recommendations and the public feedback received.

These are the maximum times allowed for progress under the Act. But with all-party support and with so much of the work already done, developments can happen much more quickly. If appointments are made to the Advisory Council in the coming weeks and/or if the Advisory Council works with both focus and resolve, new accessibility-rights legislation could be introduced as early as the fall of 2012. Indeed, it could be introduced even earlier – next springtime.

But at it’s longest (if all the time allowed for under the Act is taken) accessibility-rights legislation should be ready in time to be introduced in the spring 2013 sitting of the Legislature.

Watch for further updates.

Transcripts from Standing Committee Hearing Posted

The full transcripts of presentations to and discussion at the Human Resources Standing Committee hearing on Bill 47 held on June 13, 2011 have now been posted on the Legislative Assembly web site. You can access them as a html document or as a pdf.

The Principle of Systemic Responsibility

One of the most important elements of Bill 47 is its restatement that the responsibility for the prevention and removal of barriers in the general systems of society does not lie with individuals who have disabilities. While persons with disabilities may share some responsibility to help identify barriers, the responsibility for preventing and removing the barriers lies entirely with the public and private sector organizations that serve members of the general public.

In short, once barriers to equitable access are identified, governments, businesses and non-profit organizations have the responsibility to actively remove them. They also have the proactive responsibility to ensure that the planning of all new developments, programs and services take these same barriers into account so they are not created anew.

This statement of systemic responsibility is established in clause 7(2) of the Bill 47 as one of the four core principles that the Advisory Council must take into account in developing its recommendations for accessibility-rights legislation.

Systemic responsibility: the responsibility to prevent and remove barriers rests with the public or private organization that is responsible for establishing or perpetuating the barrier.

June 16, 2011 (4:35 pm)

Bill 47 Passes Third Reading

Bill 47 passed Third Reading in the Manitoba Legislature late this afternoon.

The passage of the Bill marks an important step toward securing the strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation that Barrier-Free Manitoba and so many others have called for over the past 2+ years. It is clear to us, however, that Bill 47 will only make a difference if it actually leads to timely action and landmark reform.

Such action and reform will fundamentally depend on the resolve of government and all parties to support the introduction and passage of subsequent legislation that ensures respect for, and compliance with, the human and legal right to equitable access. This is the vital next step that Bill 47 sets out for the Legislature over the next two years.

Our Steering Committee will be meeting over the coming weeks to consider what roles Barrier-Free Manitoba can and/or should play in the next steps forward.

We will be posting more details soon.

June 14, 2011

It's Off to Third Reading

There was a wonderful turnout last night at the Standing Committee meeting. The hearing room was packed and overflowing. Thanks to all who were able to attend.

Twenty-two persons made presentations, all of them in support of Bill 47, with many expressing disappointment that the government had not tabled actual accessibility-rights legislation. Many presenters also supported the recommendations for amendments made by Barrier-Free Manitoba in our written brief (final version is downloadable as a Word document or a pdf) attached).

In the end, the Standing Committee passed only two of the recommendations (the motions to amend are downloadable as a Word document of a pdf), as well as pdfs for your review). The transcripts from the hearing will be available soon.

So Bill 47, as amended, is now going forward for Third Reading. It is expected that this will occur tomorrow (Wednesday) or Thursday.

June 9, 2011 (5:30 pm)

Committee Hearing Scheduled for June 13th at 6 pm

The hearing of the Standing Committee reviewing Bill 47 is scheduled for:

6 pm, June 13, 2011 in Room 254 of the Legislative Building

Persons who will be attending and who require communication or related supports/accommodations and/or who wish to present are asked to contact the Clerk's Office of the Legislative Assembly on Friday (tomorrow) by calling 945-3636.

It should be a very interesting evening.

June 9, 2011 (11 am)

Passed Second Reading... It's On to the Standing Committee

Bill 47: The Accessibility Advisory Council Act passed Second Reading (so-called 'approval in principle') in the Manitoba Legislature yesterday. For those interested in following the Bill's progress, we have excerpted the related discussions that took place in the Legislature on Tuesday June 7 and Wednesday June 8. Click here to download a copy in Word.

Bill 47 has now been referred to a Standing Committee for detailed review. The Standing Committee will be holding a public hearing within the next week. We will post the date and time as soon as this information is available.

Barrier-Free Manitoba has drafted a written brief to submit/present to the Standing Committee. The draft brief supports Bill 47 that, while being much less than we had hoped for, must be the transitional step that moves Manitoba from the past decade of promising words and commitment to the next decade of real action and landmark reform. You can download the draft brief as a Wordor pdf file.

June 1, 2011

They Won't... But They Are Legislating the Steps Forwards

The provincial government has decided to not introduce strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation in this last sitting of the Legislature before Manitobans head into the fall 2011 general election.

News of this decision came as a shock to the Barrier-Free Manitoba Steering Committee, given all the work and effort invested by so many in advocating for this landmark legislation. Indeed, right up until the Committee’s May 17th meeting with the Honourable Jennifer Howard, Minister Responsible for Persons with Disabilities, all indications had been that the government was moving ahead with legislation that would have made Manitoba a "leader in promoting and protecting the human rights of persons with disabilities."

Something appears to have happened that suddenly made the government profoundly uncertain. Instead, the government has decided to move forward with something much more modest.

On June 1, 2011, Minister Howard tabled Bill 47: The Accessibility Advisory Council Act for First Reading. The Bill sets out a series of legislated obligations that are expected to lead to strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation in the future.

At its most basic, the government will have up to 3 months to appoint members to an newly established Accessibility Advisory Council. That Council will have up to 12 months to develop a proposal for accessibility-rights legislation. This proposal must then be made available to the public and, following a 45-day period for public feedback, the provincial government will have 90 days to respond.

Assuming that the Bill is passed and proclaimed, the obligations it sets out become the law. Unless this and/or any future government introduces legislation to rescind or modify the obligations, the government is required to comply with them. This means that, some two years from today, the Premier of the day and his/her cabinet will face the real decision. Do or do they not introduce strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation?

After having offered promising words for over a decade, Barrier-Free Manitoba had expected much more from this government.

Watch for further updates.

Will They Or Won't They?

It has become something of nail biter. Following many promising words and assurances, the Government of Manitoba has still not tabled the long awaited accessibility-rights legislation. With less than two months left in this last sitting of the Legislature, time is fast running out.

Too many times in the past, Manitobans with disabilities have been asked to wait for good news. Sadly, the promised good news, even after long and patient waiting, has too often never arrived.

This is a defining moment in the struggle for the basic human right to equitable access for Manitobans with disabilities. Barrier-Free Manitoba, along with many others, are waiting to see if it will be different this time.

If you have not already done so, please join us on our rights watch by signing on to our email update service. Just click here.

Send a Seniors' Action Card to the Premier

Seniors' Action CardWe invite all seniors and all Manitobans concerned about seniors' issues to send an action card to the Premier call on him and his government to introduce accessibility legislation in the Spring 2011 sitting of the Manitoba Legislature. Please click on the card (above) or here and complete the online e-card today.

If you are not yet a senior and you are concerned with disability issues for persons of all ages, please click here to complete a more general online e-card.

Congratulations and Encouragement from Ontario

AODA LogoDavid Lepofksy, the Chair of the AODA Alliance who led the decade-long campaign for accessibility-rights legislation in Ontario, has sent a letter offering both his congratulations and his support and encouragement for the critical months that lie ahead. In part, his letter reads:

I am writing to offer my congratulations on your impressive efforts to date. . .You have created for yourself a remarkable opportunity. But remarkable opportunities must be capitalized on, or else there is a risk that they can slip away.

His full letter can be downloaded in Word or pdf formats..

The Last Straw Campaign

The Last Straw LogoThe final sitting of the 39th Legislature is due to begin in April 2010. This is the last chance for the government to keep its commitment before the forthcoming election to introduce strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation.

If they keep their commitment and if the legislation enjoys the support of the legislature, Manitoba will have a new landmark law in place by the end of June. After more than two years of hard work by so many to move from concept to reality, our fine province will have become a real leader in promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

Can we just sit back and wait? We think not.

Barrier-Free Manitoba is asking concerned citizens to sign up for the final push – The Last Straw campaign. We've got up to the end of June to do all we can to help this government honour its commitment. If you can make some time to help, click here.

Please join us!

Barrier-Free Manitoba Responds to Provincial Discussion Paper

Cover of ReportTo mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Barrier-Free Manitoba has released its response to the Province's Discussion Paper for Made in Manitoba Accessibility Legislation. Our response commends the Province for setting out a vision for an truly inclusive Manitoba , as well for establishing a legislative agenda for achieving this.

Another very positive feature of the paper was its identification of seniors as focus population that will greatly benefit from the legislation. There are currently over 71,000 Manitoban seniors who have a disability. By 2031, this number is projected to have grown to 133,000.

Our response also identifies several concerns, including the need for the Province to demonstrate leadership in ensuring the legislation will be both strong and effective, the need for resolute action following a decade of kind words, hopeful promises and clear commitments, and the importance of establishing a target date to achieve a barrier-free Manitoba.

Our response can be downloadable in regular (Word and pdf) and large print (Word and pdf) formats.

Barrier-Free Manitoba encourages all concerned groups and citizens to provide feedback on the discussion paper. To share your thoughts with the Province, send an email to accessibilitylegislation@gov.mb.caor click here to provide feedback online.

Labour Adds its Endorsement to Call for Legislation

MFL LogoThe Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL), the province's central labour body, recently endorsed the call for strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation. The MFL represents more than 90,000 working women and men in the private, public and non-profit sectors, spanning the manufacturing, government, retail, health, education, natural resources, tourism, agriculture, transportation and many other industries.

In a letter to Premier Selinger, Kevin Rebeck, MFL President, says that "legislation needs to be drafted and introduced sooner rather than later" and commits that the MFL will "inform its affiliates about this issue and the importance of our tangible support for Barrier-Free Manitoba's work."

Barrier-Free Manitoba heartily welcomes this endorsement of the call for legislation from such an key sector.

Province Tables Discussion Paper on Made in Manitoba Accessibility Legislation

Discussion Paper Cover PageOn November 2, 2010, the Province of Manitoba released a discussion paper on made in Manitoba accessibility-rights legislation. The paper outlines the Province’s vision of a barrier-free society, the benefits of achieving this vision and the existing barriers that can be addressed through new legislation.

Based on the paper, the legislation would focus on "the proactive identification and removal of systemic barriers" that "will move us toward a more inclusive society for all Manitobans" and would include:

  • clear, specific and achievable goals
  • accessibility standards for both the public and private sectors
  • a central role for persons with disabilities and other stakeholders, including business in the development of legislation
  • guarantees that the human rights codes are not undermined in any way
  • a regular review of the progress made

The paper is being released now to seek "input from a broad range of Manitobans so that we can work together to realize the vision of a fully accessible province for everyone."

The discussion paper is posted on the Disabilities Issues Office website at and the Seniors and Healthy Aging website at

This is a very promising development. The key, however, will be the drafting of strong and effective rights legislation, as well as its introduction, passage and proclamation as part of the next legislative session (before the election).

Disability Human Rights Complaints Reach All-Time High

Today's (October 27, 2010) release of the 2009 Annual Report by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission (MRHC) reconfirmed that disability discrimination is the foremost human rights issue facing the province. Complaints based on disability discrimination accounted for 47% of all the human rights complaints filed with the MHRC in 2009, a sharp increase from the 41% figure reported in 2008.

The MHRC data show that more human rights complaints were filed in 2009 based on disability discrimination than for nearly all the other grounds combined.

But this is really only the tip of the iceberg. Many, if not most, of the 170,000 Manitobans who have a disability continue to face a myriad of barriers in their daily lives. Every instance where any of these barriers prevents equitable access to goods, services and employment in the public, private and non-profit sectors represents a potential human rights complaint.

With the number of persons with a disability projected to increase substantially in the coming years, Manitoba has a growing public policy issue that neither the courts nor the human rights commission are able or equipped to address.

Now is the time for real action. Now is the time for strong and effective human rights legislation.

Can We Afford Not to Make Manitoba Fully Accessible?

Releasing Contraints CoverA new Canadian study, just released by the University of Toronto-based Martin Prosperity Institute, has concluded that "releasing the constraints that limit full participation in the economy will create a significant force for economic growth." And its findings are clear:

"the demand for accessible goods, services, buildings and employment is not just large but growing, and will overtake the demand for their conventional counterparts. Of further importance is our finding that the impact of increased employment accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities will increase the average incomes of all Ontarians."

Click here to download/view a pdf copy of the report or visit the study website at:

It has become obvious that ensuring accessibility in our province is both the right and the reasonable thing to do. This study now provides clear evidence that ensuring accessibility also makes excellent 'business sense.'

Can we afford not to make Manitoba fully accessible?

Making the Right Basic Design Decision

BakerLaw LogoBakerLaw recommends that Manitoba adopt a centralized approach to the development, monitoring and enforcement of accessibility standards under the proposed legislation.

Based on basic design considerations and the recent experience in Ontario, this leading human and disability rights law firm concludes that a centralized approach is much more likely to provide for:

"adequate coordination, consistency of standards, monitoring and enforcement, adequate breadth of coverage, supremacy of standards and public accountability".

BakerLaw's second report to Barrier-Free Manitoba presents a detailed comparison of a centralized vs. a dispersed approach. This second report is downloadable in regular (Word and pdf) or large print (Word and pdf) formats.

More Evidence to Build on the Ontario Experience

Beer Report CoverAs part its activities to mark National Access Awareness Week and the fifth anniversary of its groundbreaking accessibility-rights legislation, the Province of Ontario released the long-awaited final report of the Charles Beer Independent Review on the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The Beer report provides the basis to "build momentum and ensure a successful transformation to an accessible Ontario by 2025." You can view the report by downloading a pdf or a large print Word version. You can also view the report online

Barrier-Free Manitoba has consistently called for accessibility-rights legislation that builds on the strengths of the models already in place in other jurisdictions while addressing their limitations. This report provides yet another basis for legislative action by the Province to make Manitoba a leader in promoting and protecting the human rights of persons with disabilities.

BakerLaw Report on Strategic Legislative Options Released

BakerLaw LogoWith the recent Throne Speech pledge that legislation will be central to updating and improving Manitoba’s disability strategy, the government has set the agenda to honour the September 2009 commitment made by then candidate for the NDP leadership and now Premier Greg Selinger to introduce landmark accessibility-rights legislation based on the model already in place in Ontario.

To support informed discussion on the proposed legislation, Barrier-Free Manitoba retained the services of BakerLaw to research and report on strategic options related to the proposed legislation. BakerLaw is a Toronto-based legal firm that is a nationally recognized leader in disability and human rights law.

BakerLaw has now completed this report and has concluded that the proposed legislation provides for "a significant advance in the accessibility of the province" and "an excellent opportunity for the proactive identification and removal of barriers of all kinds across Manitoba."

The report makes 16 recommendations related to:

  1. Definition of Disability
  2. Development of Accessibility Standards
  3. Monitoring and Ensuring Compliance
  4. Public Accountability
  5. Interaction of the Accessibility Standards and the Manitoba Human Rights Code and Other Legislation

Barrier-Free Manitoba is pleased to release the report which downloadable in regular (Word and pdf) and large print (Word and pdf) formats.

Fair Access for ALL Campaign a Success / Dr. John Loxley Endorses the Call for Legislation

Fair Access for All logoThe Fair Access for ALL campaign is now officially over. Launched onSeptember 22, 2009, the eight-week campaign sought a commitment from the government to enact accessibility-rights legislation in the upcoming legislative session.

The very first day of the campaign was remarkable: Greg Selinger, then a candidate for the NDP leadership, announced his commitment, if elected, to introduce legislation consistent with the principles set out by Barrier-Free Manitoba. We have now called on Premier Selinger to formalize his legislative commitment by including it in his forthcoming Throne Speech.

Barrier-Free Manitoba thanks the hundreds ofManitobans who individually and collectively wrote or called their MLAs over the last several weeks to request their support for this historic legislation.

The campaign closes with more good news: prominent economist Dr. John Loxley has publicly endorsed the call for accessibility-rights legislation. Please see the attached press release (Word or pdf) for more information.

The Honourable Reg Alcock Endorses the Call for Accessibility-Rights Legislation

As the Fair Access for ALL campaign reaches Week 3, Barrier-Free Manitoba is pleased to announce that the Honourable Reg Alcock has added his name to the list of prominent Manitobans supporting accessibility-rights legislation. “Manitoba has long been a leader in providing support for persons with disabilities, but it is important to note that Fair Access for ALL is truly about all of us," Mr. Alcock said. "As more of us are living longer, these provisions will benefit all Manitobans.” The news release is available in pdf and large print pdf.

Dr. Paul Thomas Endorses Call for Accessibility-Rights Legislation

Barrier-Free Manitoba welcomed the public endorsement of the call for legislation from Dr. Paul Thomas, Duff Roblin Professor of Government at the University of Manitoba, who has received widespread recognition for his distinguished contributions to public policy and who is a member of the Order of Manitoba. "Strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation not only promises to address systemic human rights issues," says Dr. Thomas. "It will also enhance accessibility for all Manitobans, a benefit that will become increasingly important with the aging of the population."

Barrier-Free Manitoba Response to Opening Doors

Fair Access for All CoverBarrier-Free Manitoba has prepared a formal response to Opening Doors: Manitoba's Commitment to Persons with Disabilities, the discussion paper released by the Province in June. Take a look at the Executive Summary, available in Word or PDF or read the complete response in Word or PDF.

Systemic Reform Now Officially on the Province's Agenda

Opening Doors CoverOn June 4th, Minister Gord Macintosh released a discussion paper, Opening Doors: Manitoba’s Commitment to Persons with Disabilities, outlining proposed directions for a long-term disability strategy in Manitoba.

The 46-page document sets out a series of proposed objectives under ten areas of commitment to Manitobans with disabilities. Commitment No. 3 is called Rights and Justice and the proposed objective reads:

"To make Manitoba a leader in promoting and protecting the human rights of persons with disabilities." (p. 19)

This is the commitment that specifically refers to legislation. Strong and effective accessibility legislation would, however, go a long way toward addressing issues related to all ten of the Minister's commitments.

But this is only a discussion document. The Province has said that consultations are required before it can make a decision to proceed. Unfortunately, detailed information is not currently available on the timelines for consultations or how consultations will be carried out.

Over next short while, Barrier-Free Manitoba will be reviewing the discussion document and seeking details on the consultation process. Then we will be posting further information.

In the interim, here are the links to the:

Press Release:

The Discussion Document: (you can also download the document from the Disability Issues Office web site:

Poverty Reduction Plan Recommends Accessibility Legislation

On May 26th, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Manitoba (CCPA), in collaboration with Make Poverty History Manitoba and many other organizations released The View From Here: Manitobans call for a poverty reduction plan. The report is based on the ideas that emerged from consultations and interviews with hundreds of individuals across Manitoba.

The call for accessibility-rights legislation is featured among the report's key recommendations for change:

Develop and enact strong and effective legislation that requires the progressive removal of existing barriers for persons with disabilities, and prevents the creation of new ones.

The full report (and a summary version) can be downloaded from the CCPA web site:

Keynote Addresses from Disability, Health and Wellness Conference

David Lepofsky, who led the 12-year campaign for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, inspired participants at the Disability, Health and Wellness Conference with clear ideas on the benefits of accessibility-rights legislation and some suggestions on how to develop this option in Manitoba. To hear his complete presentation, click here.

Commissioner Karen Tamley, City of Chicago, demonstrated the change that can be achieved with the required recognition and support of municipal, state and national governments. Commissioner Tamley's presentation is available here.

Barrier-Free Manitoba Website Goes "Live"

Barrier-Free Manitoba launched this website on February 9, 2009.

Barrier-Free Manitoba Launches Public Campaign to Secure Legislation

Barrier-Free Manitoba launched a public campaign to secure strong and effective accessibilituy-rights legislation at a community event organized on December 3, 2008 (International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Barrier-Free Manitoba Calls on Province to Enact Accessibility-Rights Legislation

The Barrier-Free Manitoba Steering Committee and Consultant met with governemnt MLA Jennifer Howard on September 26, 2008 to call on the Province to enact strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation within the next three years. Ms. Howard has been designated by Minister Gord MacIntosh to take the lead role in developing plan to update the Province’s disability strategy.

As part of this meeting, Barrier-Free Manitoba tabled an initial brief making the case for the importance of this call for legislative action. This document is available in a number of formats. (Regular type: PDF / Word) (Large Print: PDF / Word)