Background and Introduction
This document is meant to help people understand the main points of Bill C-81, an Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. This bill is also known as the proposed Accessible Canada Act. A bill is a parliamentary proposal to make a new law. A bill that has been approved by Parliament is called an Act. Parliament is made up of the following three groups.
- The House of Commons
- The Senate
- The Governor General
An Act that comes into force is a law that needs to be followed or obeyed.
Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, has been introduced in the House of Commons. Until it has been approved by Parliament, it cannot be applied to any groups or organizations.
This document is about the changes that would take place if the bill is approved and becomes law. In this document, the proposed Accessible Canada Act is just called ‘the Act.’
What is Bill C-81 – the Accessible Canada Act?
The Accessible Canada Act is a proposal for a new federal law about accessibility. Accessibility means that everyone can get to and use information and spaces and places. Accessibility is very important for people with disabilities.
There are many different kinds of disability. A disability can be physical or mental or intellectual. A disability can affect a person’s ability to learn or communicate. A disability can affect a person’s ability to be understood. A disability can affect a person’s ability to see, hear or speak. A person can have more than one disability. A disability can be permanent or it can change over time.
A disability may limit a person from being able to take part in society. But it is not only a person’s disability that may be limiting. There are also barriers in our world that limit a person with a disability.
A barrier is anything that does not allow people with disabilities to be included and take part in all areas of life and society. Barriers prevent people with disabilities from taking part in the same way that people without disabilities can. For people with disabilities, there are many different kinds of barriers.
There can be barriers in the physical world. There can be barriers in the environment. There can be barriers in how we use things like technology. There can be barriers in people’s attitudes towards disability. There can be barriers in information and communication. A barrier can be caused by a policy or practice. A barrier is anything that prevents people with disabilities from taking part.
The Act would make sure all Canadians can take part in all areas of life and society.
Why do we need an Accessible Canada Act?
People with disabilities and all Canadians have rights. These rights are in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They are also in the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Canada has also signed on to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This means Canada has agreed to follow the Convention. The Convention promotes and protects the rights of people with disabilities.
The Act is meant to help all Canadians. It would especially help Canadians with disabilities. The Act is meant to make Canada free from barriers. It is meant to be used to identify, prevent and remove barriers.
What are the guiding points of the Act?
The Act states that all parts of our society have a role to play in accessibility.
It states that people with disabilities need to be involved. They need to be involved in the planning parts of new works. This includes being involved in the design stages of buildings and spaces, and programs and services. It also includes being involved in making policies and practices.
The Act also has the following guiding points.
- Everyone must be treated with dignity.
- Everyone must have equal opportunity.
- Everyone must have access to be able to fully and equally take part in society.
- Everyone must have meaningful options and freedom of choice.
The Act is meant to make sure that all Canadians can fully exercise their rights and responsibilities.
How would the Act make Canada free of barriers?
The Act would make Canada free of barriers in the following ways.
- The Act would make rules about accessibility. In the future, more rules would be made. These would be called ‘accessibility standards.’
- The Act would require organizations to complete certain accessibility duties. These duties would apply to organizations under the power of the federal government.
- The Act would have a way to receive and respond to complaints.
What are accessibility standards?
Accessibility standards are a set of rules about accessibility that help organizations to find and remove barriers. They help to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. The following areas would have standards.
- There would be standards around getting a job.
- There would be standards for access to buildings and spaces and places.
- There would be standards in using information and communication technology.
- There would be standards in getting goods and services.
- There would be standards in providing programs and services.
- There would be standards for using transportation services.
Other areas for standards may be made in the future.
How would accessibility standards be made?
The Act would have a process to create accessibility standards. In the Act, a new group would be created. This group would be called the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization. In this document, this group is called the ‘Standards Organization.’
This organization would make the standards. These standards would help identify, remove and prevent barriers. The standards would become laws that would have to be followed. Below is the process to create accessibility standards.
- The Standards Organization would develop a standard.
- The standard would be given to the Minister. It would then be published.
- Based on the standard, the federal government would make a law known as a ‘regulation.’
- Organizations under the power of the federal government would have to follow the regulation.
Who would have to obey the Act?
If the Act becomes law, it would have to be obeyed by certain groups.
For example, the Act would apply to most organizations that are under the power of the federal government. The Act would also apply to the administration of federal parliament.
Here are some examples of organizations that would have to follow the Act.
- Federal government departments and agencies
- Crown corporations
- The Canadian Forces
- The Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- Parts of the private sector in the areas of banking and finance
- Parts of the private sector in the area of transportation
- Parts of the private sector in the areas of broadcasting and communications technology
This might be because an organization already has its own accessibility plan or other specific needs. The federal government can also excuse a structure, business, activity or location from parts of the Act.
How would organizations follow the Act?
Organizations would have to do certain duties to follow the Act. They would have to make plans, address feedback and give progress reports.
Organizations would have to make plans on how they would improve accessibility and obey the Act. They would have to involve people with disabilities when they create the plans. The plans would have to be published. The plans would be updated every three years.
Organizations would have to set up a way to get feedback and respond to it. The feedback would be from their employees and customers. The feedback would be about the organization’s accessibility plans. Feedback would also be about any barriers faced by people who deal with the organizations.
Providing Progress reports
Organizations would have to provide progress reports. They would have to involve people with disabilities when creating these reports. Progress reports would have to be published. The progress reports would answer the following questions.
- How were accessibility plans put into action?
- How were people with disabilities involved?
- What were the main concerns of the feedback?
- What was done about the concerns in the feedback?
How would the Act be enforced?
The word ‘enforce’ means to make sure the Act is being followed or obeyed. The Act would be enforced in the following ways.
- An organization may be inspected.
- An organization may have to provide information about its activities.
- An organization may agree to make changes.
- An organization may be ordered to make changes.
- An organization may be warned to make changes.
- An organization may get a penalty or fine for not following the Act.
Who would enforce the Act?
An Accessibility Commissioner would enforce the Act. The Commissioner would make sure it is being followed. But the two organizations below would also enforce the Act in certain areas.
- The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
- The Canadian Transportation Agency
Who would be the key players in the Act?
There would be key groups and positions involved in the Act. They would have important roles and duties. Here are some key groups and positions needed to make the Act work.
The federal government would bring the Act into force. When the Act comes into ‘force,’ it means it has to be obeyed and will be enforced. This group would also turn future accessibility standards into law. They would appoint people to the positions created by the Act.
A federal Minister would be made responsible for managing the Act. Some of the Minister’s duties would be as follows.
- The Minister would help to make and support policies, programs and projects on accessibility.
- The Minister would gather and share information on accessibility.
- The Minister would work with provincial and territorial governments on accessibility issues.
- The Minister would give reports to Parliament.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission would be responsible for accessibility in many areas of broadcasting and telecommunications.
The Canadian Transportation Agency would be responsible for accessibility in many areas of transportation.
Would the Act create new organizations or positions?
The Act would create one new organization. It would also create new positions.
The Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization would be created. It would develop and maintain accessibility standards. It would research and share information. It would make reports to the Minister. The Minister would give the reports to Parliament.
This organization would have the following positions.
- A board of directors would be appointed by the federal government. The directors would represent the diversity of Canadian society. Most of the directors would be people with disabilities. The directors would set the direction of the organization.
- A Chief Executive Officer would be appointed by the federal government. The Chief Executive Officer would manage the organization. The board would advise the Chief Executive Officer.
- Committees would be created by the Chief Executive Officer. They would be made up of experts and advisors. They would help to make and change accessibility standards.
- The Commissioner would enforce most of the Act.
- The Commissioner would inform and advise the Minister on managing the Act.
- The Commissioner would prepare and publish annual reports and other reports.
- The Commissioner would deal with many kinds of accessibility complaints.
- The Officer would advise the Minister on accessibility issues.
- The Officer would make special reports to the Minister.
- The Officer would make annual reports to the Minister. The Minister would give these reports to Parliament.
Would the key players in the Act work with each other?
The Act would require the following groups to work together.
- Accessibility Commissioner
- Canadian Transportation Agency
- Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
- Canadian Human Rights Commission
- Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board
All the organizations involved would have to help the Chief Accessibility Officer.
Would the Act deal with complaints?
A complaint could be made if a regulation made under the Act is broken. Complaints could only be made against an organization that has to follow the Act. A complaint could be made about harm, damage or loss.
The Accessibility Commissioner would look into the complaint. The Commissioner would make a ruling or a decision. The Commissioner could make an order if the complaint is proven. A complaint could result in an individual being compensated.
The Commissioner would not deal with all accessibility complaints. In the following cases, complaints would be dealt with by these organizations.
- The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board would deal with complaints in its area.
- The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission would deal with complaints in its area.
- The Canadian Transportation Agency would deal with complaints in its area.
Would the Act raise awareness?
The Act would create a ‘National AccessAbility Week’ each year. This week would promote inclusion and accessibility. It would celebrate the progress made in the community and the workplace. This week would also inspire people to increase inclusion and accessibility.
Would the Act be reviewed after it became law?
If the Act becomes law, it would be reviewed to make sure it is working.
There would be a review of the Act by Parliament. A first report would be written based on this review. This would happen five years after the first regulation under the Act is made.
Five years after the first report, there would be an independent review of the Act. A report of the review would be written and then given to Parliament. This review would require input from the following groups.
- The general public
- People with disabilities
- Organizations representing people with disabilities
- Organizations that have to follow the Act
After that, independent reviews of the Act would happen every ten years. The reports of these reviews would be given to Parliament.
When will Bill C-81 become law?
Bill C-81 was introduced in the House of Commons on June 20, 2018. The bill still has to be considered and approved before it can become law.
It is too early to say when this would happen. But after it is approved, there would be a waiting period before it comes into force. This would give everyone time to prepare for the new law.