I took my Power in my Hand – /
And went against the World –
Emily Dickinson (Poem 660)
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Only took Canada 25 years or so to follow the example of the USA----Carlos Sosa, a Manitoba board member of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, was at Monday’s consultation and said while he welcomes national legislation, the government doesn’t have to wait until it can be passed to act on outstanding issues now. He said reforms are needed for employment insurance as well as policies preventing public money from being used for anything that creates a barrier to someone with a disability.
OTTAWA — Federally regulated industries will likely face new national accessibility standards under a pending national act for people with disabilities within a year and a half, the minister responsible for the file said Tuesday.
Carla Qualtrough, minister of sport and persons with disabilities, is overseeing a national consultation to create Canada’s first national act for persons with disabilities. The consultations were in Winnipeg Monday, overseen by Qualtrough’s parliamentary secretary Stéphane Lauzon.
In an interview with the Free Press, Qualtrough said getting a national act for persons with disabilities into place is her "No. 1 deliverable to the prime minister."
Qualtrough said Tuesday she expects the law will establish some kind of standard or guideline for federally regulated employers and service providers for ensuring accessibility and fairness for Canadians with a disability. That would include banks, interprovincial travel such as trains and airlines, and telecommunications.
Disability-rights activists have been calling for a national disabilities act for years. Current literature cites everything from inaccessible websites to physical barriers in public transportation to a lack of requirement to accommodate the needs of someone with a disability in the workplace.
The United States introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act more than 25 years ago, prompting a myriad of improvements in physical accessibility of structures and services and employment laws.
In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides some protection for people with disabilities but Qualtrough said if there is a violation, someone has to challenge it with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. A national disabilities act could make the process more proactive, she said.
She said to understand the number of barriers facing the estimated four million Canadians currently living with a disability, one only needs to know half of the complaints received by the Canadian Human Rights Commission are from people with disabilities.
"When you think of all the other grounds — gender, income, race, religion, sexual orientation — and you think of all the things people can file complaints about, half of them are on the ground of disabilities," she said. "So there is a gap there. There is something we need to fix."
Carlos Sosa, a Manitoba board member of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, was at Monday’s consultation and said while he welcomes national legislation, the government doesn’t have to wait until it can be passed to act on outstanding issues now.
He said reforms are needed for employment insurance as well as policies preventing public money from being used for anything that creates a barrier to someone with a disability.
Qualtrough said a report on what was said at the consultations should be made public in February with the legislation introduced in the fall of 2017 or spring 2018 at the latest.