Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Decision Safeguards Access on Voting Day

12 February 2010

For Immediate Release


On 17 March 2008, due to inaccessibility at the St. Basil's Church polling station, Peter Hughes, a voter with a physical disability, had to go down a set of stairs "on the seat of his pants" in order to cast his ballot in a federal by-election. Once again on 14 October 2008, the general election, he experienced barriers at the St. Basil's polling station, located in the downtown riding of Toronto Centre. Mr. Hughes made a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission against Elections Canada about the barriers he encountered. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal granted Interested Party status to the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a human rights organization covering a wide spectrum of disabilities. CCD shared with the Tribunal its views on remedies that would benefit voters with disabilities in future elections.

In James Peter Hughes and Canadian Human Rights Commission and Elections Canada and Council of Canadians with Disabilities, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered Elections Canada to "cease from situating polling stations in locations that do not provide barrier-free access". "CCD regards this decision as a victory, because the Tribunal's order compels Elections Canada to keep access considerations front and centre as it conducts elections," states Marie White, CCD Chairperson. Additionally, the Tribunal ordered Elections Canada to alter a number of its practices related to consultation, leasing, policies and guidelines, signage, and training. For example, Elections Canada has been ordered to revise "its standard lease for polling stations to include the requirement that the leased premises provide level access and are barrier-free". The Tribunal also ordered Elections Canada to implement "a process for receiving, recording and processing verbal and written complaints about lack of accessibility." The number of complaints received about accessibility will be publicly reported via Elections Canada's CEO's post-election report to Parliament. "In addition to training, monitoring elections and evaluating accessibility outcomes are critical," states Jim Derksen, a member of the CCD Human Rights Committee.


For More Information Contact:
Jim Derksen, CCD Human Rights Committee Member, Cell: 204-781-4187
Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator, Cell: 204-981-6179
Yvonne Peters, CCD Human Rights Committee Lawyer, Tel: 204-832-0681