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BFM Sends in Comment on Bill C-81 - the Accessible Canada Act

Oct 08, 2018

Standing Committee in session

Based on consultations with David Lepofsky this past week, a detailed review of the AODA Alliance 100+ page brief, and a review of the nine design principles developed for Manitoba's accessibiity-rights legislation, Barrier-Free Manitoba submitted the following to the federal Minister and the members of the Standing Committee.

Dear Minister Qualtrough and Members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities:

I am writing on behalf of Barrier-Free Manitoba (BFM) to indicate our support for and endorsement of the views expressed and the call for significant amendments to Bill C-81 as outlined in the September 27, 2018 brief prepared by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. We are in accord with the Alliance’s detailed brief. We are also in full agreement with the 27 summary recommendations for amendments. 

As a matter of introduction, BFM is the cross-disability, non-partisan, community initiative that has worked for the last decade on provincial accessibility-rights legislation in Manitoba. Our first five years of work led to the all-party, unanimous member passage of the landmark Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) in December 2013. Our work since has focused on promoting the full and timely implementation of the Act. Our support for the AODA Alliance brief is rooted in our experience gained over these ten years.

We would also like to take this opportunity to highlight one area that we feel merits particular attention, as well as a second area that has not been specifically covered in the Alliance’s brief.

The area that requires close attention is that lack of any provision in Bill C-81 to address the federal government’s constitutional, fiduciary and special responsibilities in relation to Indigenous People with disabilities (recommendations #83 in the detailed brief and #17 in the summary). 

Disability rates among Indigenous People are roughly two to three times higher than for the general population. Indigenous People are also among the Canadians who face the most severe barriers to accessibility. Both the higher rates and the severity of the barriers faced by Indigenous People are the direct result of government policies that reflect a shameful past and that continue into the present. 

These issues and the critical importance of including special measures in this historic federal accessibility legislation to address this tragic legacy were raised in the consultations held by the government in Winnipeg in October 2016. They have also been raised in most of the consultation reports submitted by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations. 

It is shocking to us that Bill C-81 does not incorporate any special measures to act on these federal responsibilities. It remains uncertain how or if Bill C-81 can be amended to address this critical shortfall. What is clear is that an immense amount of committed and sustained work lies ahead to ensure that the federal government fulfills its manifold responsibilities to Indigenous People, both as Nations and as individual members of these Nations with disabilities who share the same basic right to accessibility as all others in Canada.

The second area that we would like to highlight is the absence of any explicit reference to The National Building Code of Canada, either in Bill C-81 or in the AODA Alliance brief. The National Building Code of Canada is not only applicable in areas of federal jurisdiction. It also plays a profound role in shaping the building codes that are developed and adopted by each Canadian province. At both the federal and provincial levels, the building codes, and the current limited levels of accessibility provided for, result in costly and preventable barriers being perpetuated and newly created everyday in built environments across the country.    

It seems likely that the responsibility for developing strong and effective accessibility standards related to building codes are meant to fall under the purview and duties of the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO). However, this remains unclear and we believe that explicit reference needs to be added to Bill C-81 and/or be clarified as part of the Committee’s review of the Bill.

In closing, thank you for the opportunity to provide comment on Bill C-81. We are hopeful that your review will result in significant amendments to substantially strengthen the Bill to proactively meet and exceed Canada’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and The Canadian Human Rights Act. 


Patrick Falconer

Consultant to the Barrier-Free Manitoba Steering Committee 

We encourage you to read the AODA Alliance's brief and to send in your comments over the next week.


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