Summary Note: Bill C-81 Parliamentary Study - Thursday October 25, 2018


Dear Colleagues,

As you are aware Parliament is presently holding hearings on Bill C-81 (The Accessible Canada Act).  The CNIB has undertaken to provide brief daily summaries of these hearings, and they have generously agreed to allow CCD to have them translated for circulation across the country, in both English and French.  Therefore, please find attached the CNIB summary for the hearing on October 18, 2018.  We will continue to translate and share these summaries as quickly as we are able.  Meantime thanks to the CNIB for this collaboration! 

Steven Estey
Government & Community Relations Manager
Council of Canadians with Disabilities
343 Preston Street, 11th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1S 1N4

Summary Note: Bill C-81 Parliamentary Study - Wednesday October 25, 2018

Please find a summary of the Parliamentary Committee study on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. Thank you to Alice Clark, Specialist, Government Relations and Policy, for monitoring and reporting on these meetings.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

Committee Meeting October 25, 2018
8:00am – 10:00am
Witnesses included:

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance: David Lepofsky, Chair, Faith Cameletti, Student, Osgoode Hall Law School and Connor Campbell, Student, Osgoode Hall Law School
Canadian Hard of Hearing Association: Christopher Sutton, National Executive Director
CNIB Foundation: Angela Bonfanti, Vice-President, Ontario and Quebec and Robbi Weldon, Program Lead, Peer Support and Leisure
Canadian Association of the Deaf: Frank Folino, President and James Roots, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission: David Arnot, Chief Commissioner

David Lepofsky, from the AODA Act Alliance, said Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions but weak on enforcement. He urged the members of the committee not to think of the political expediency of today in their review of the Bill. He said the bill splinters the creation of standards across four agencies, creating a formula for a weak bill, confusion, and delay. He said the government's response of a "no wrong door" policy does not solve the substantial problem once you are inside the door. He also said that to ensure this law makes a difference on day one, the government must ensure that wherever federal money is spent, it can't be used to create new barriers.

Christopher Sutton from the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association said the bill needs timelines and additional funds provided to organizations who service persons with disabilities. He said the public sector agencies under the proposed legislation should lead with an example of a culture of inclusion and equality.

Angela Bonfanti from CNIB Foundation said there is fear amongst Canadians with sight loss that a splintering effect will make enforcement of this legislation more onerous for Canadians with disabilities She said CNIB urges the government to broaden the scope of Bill C-81 by mandating the government to procure accessible materials, technologies, and services. She said all future policies and legislation need to be viewed with a disability lens.

Frank Folino from the Canadian Association of the Deaf said he wanted to see the bill recognize ASL and LSQ as official languages of deaf people in Canada. He said he wanted to see timelines up to 5 years for development and implementation, and that communication should be added as a barrier. He also called for a single point of access to oversee complaints, financial support available to assist complainants with legal fees, and minimum representation of 2/3 persons with disabilities on CASDO.

David Arnot said there is a strong business case for greater accessibility, and a demographic urgency for it. He said the Bill needed a consistent rubric for evaluating accessibility.

MP Finley asked Mr. Lepofksy about the two-tier exemption system that currently allows public agencies easier access to exemptions than the regulated private sector. Mr. Lepofsky said it is not a one size fits all rule, where timelines will vary depending on the size and scope of the agency. He said there are no good accessibility standards in Canada from which the committee can draw.

MP Hardcastle asked who should be overseeing enforcement of standards. Mr. Lepofsky said all enforcement should be done by the accessibility commissioner, and that accessibility commissioner should be report to the publicly accountable Cabinet.

MP Hogg asked about exemptions, and the criteria the witnesses would like to see for obtaining exemptions. Mr. Lepfosky said that the way it is written now, the government can give a carte blanche exemption. He said there should be tiny, narrow, and time limited appeals process with strict, narrow criteria. Ms. Bonfanti echoed that, saying exemptions that are granted need to be revisited because exemptions should not be granted forever.

MP Diotte asked for some examples of the challenges the witnesses face as persons with disabilities. Mr. Felino and Mr. Roots said sign language interpreting services aren't readily available for things like job interviews, and that government departments are unaware that it is their duty to provide them. Mr. Roots described trouble voting in the municipal election last week because of a lack of awareness.

MP Long asked what the government could do to improve voting procedures for Canadians with disabilities. Mr. Arnot said there is no argument for undue hardship when it comes to voting, as Canadians with disabilities are trying to exercise a fundamental right.

MP long also asked about the makeup of CASDO. Mr. Fellino said the board would need a minimum of 2/3 persons with disabilities because often a 50% +1 model leads to persons with disabilities being further marginalized and pushed away, allowing non-disabled people to take over and outvote them.

Please share with staff you would be interested.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or Alice Clark.


Thomas Simpson
Head, Public Affairs
1355 Bank St, Ottawa ON, K1H 8K7