FALA Urges Senate Passage of Historic Bill C-81

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TORONTO, March 21, 2019 – An alliance of 90 disability-related organizations wants the Senate to pass historic legislation that would require organizations under federal jurisdiction to ensure barrier free access to work places, public spaces, employment, programs, services and information.

The Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA), which has helped galvanize the country’s disability community into a formidable voice for a barrier-free Canada, has played a significant role in the shaping of Bill C-81.

The bill, which will be known as the Accessible Canada Act once it becomes law, unanimously passed Third Reading in the House of Commons last November. In the Senate, Bill C-81 passed Second Reading earlier this month and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. Once the committee concludes its deliberations, the bill with recommended improvements will come before the full Senate for Third Reading.

“We are on the cusp of making history with the first-ever Accessible Canada Act,” said Bill Adair, Executive Director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada, which is also the Lead Partner in FALA. “But if Bill C-81 does not receive Royal Assent before the House and Senate rise in June it will die on the order paper because of the upcoming federal election, and our movement will be set back years, no matter which party forms the next government. That’s why FALA is asking that Bill C-81 receive Royal Assent this spring.”

Bill C-81, which has incorporated 74 amendments in response to recommendations by FALA and others in the community involved in a lengthy consultation process, requires entities under federal government jurisdiction to identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities in Canada. Those covered by Bill C-81 include Parliament, federal employees and agencies, Canada’s Armed Forces, the RCMP, Crown corporations, and organizations in the transportation, telecommunications, broadcasting and banking sectors.

Up until now, people with disabilities have been protected by Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which gives everyone the right to equal treatment regardless of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, age or physical or mental disability, and by the Human Rights Act, which offers avenues of redress for those who have faced discrimination based on physical or mental disability.

“Bill C-81 breaks new ground by creating the positions of Accessibility Commissioner and Chief Accessibility Officer to enforce compliance with the Act. This will expand the current system, which requires people who believe they have been denied accessibility to go before the Human Rights Commission with their individual complaints,” Mr. Adair said.

Among its other significant benefits, Bill C-81 would:

  • Improve access to better and more secure jobs, facilitate travel and communications and provide equal access to communication supports, programs and services.
  • Create accessibility standards and regulations regarding employment, built environment, communication, information and communication technologies, the procurement of goods and services and facilities, transportation, and the design and delivery of programs and services.
  • Monitor compliance with standards and regulations, and issue monetary penalties of up to $250,000 for entities that do not comply with the requirements of the Act.
  • Require organizations within the bill’s jurisdiction to involve people with disabilities in creating and implementing accessibility plans and to receive and respond to feedback regarding accessibility from employees, customers and others who interact with each federally regulated entity.
  • Require organizations, in consultation with people with disabilities, to report on their progress in developing and implementing accessibility plans.
  • Create a Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO), a majority of whose board of directors would be people with disabilities, to determine the accessibility standards upon which government-generated regulations would be based.
  • Manage a process for receiving and resolving complaints from people with disabilities who encounter barriers with federally regulated entities.

“While Bill C-81 is historic, its ultimate success will depend on the quality of the standards and regulations that will be created once the bill is passed into law and on active enforcement,” Mr. Adair said.

He said that FALA is strongly urging Parliament to pass the legislation this spring. In the meantime, FALA continues to ask both the House of Commons and the Senate to adopt its recommendations to improve Bill C-81 before it receives Royal Assent. Chief among these is recognition of ASL/LSQ as the languages of people who are Deaf.

“Even after the bill is passed, we will continue to ask that our recommendations be incorporated in the standards and regulations and through amendments to the Act itself,” Mr. Adair said.


Contact: Gillian Lynne-Davies | 416-436-6031 | gillian@sci-can.ca