ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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Barrier-Free Canada Announces Next Steps in Campaign for Canadians with Disabilities Act after Canada Elects A New Federal Government that Promised a National Disability Law

October 20, 2015

Below we set out the latest announcement from Barrier-Free Canada.

Barrier-Free Canada/Canada Sans Barrière
www.barrierfreecanada.org
info@barrierfreecanada.org
A Non-Partisan Campaign for a Barrier-Free Canada for All Persons with Disabilities

New Canadian Parliament Is Elected with Strong Majority of MPs Who Committed to Support Passing a Canadians with Disabilities Act – We Look Forward to Working with the New Canadian Government and All Parties On Developing and Passing a Strong and Effective New National Disabilities Law Promised to Over Four Million Canadians

October 20, 2015

SUMMARY

We have made history! Barrier-Free Canada Looks forward to working with the new Federal Government, to be headed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and with all federal parties, on developing and passing the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act.

We can be very proud of the non-partisan campaign we spearheaded over the past weeks and months to try to secure all-party commitments to support enactment of the Canadians with Disabilities Act. Against the odds, during this election campaign, we won commitments in support of a Canadians with Disabilities Act from the Liberals, the New Democratic Party and the Green party. Between all of them, some 229 MPs of the 338 Members of Parliament who will go to Ottawa have committed to support passage of the Canadians with Disabilities Act.

The Conservative Party, which will now be the Official Opposition, and the Bloc Quebecois did not make a commitment on this during this election. The Conservative party had committed in 2006 to bring forward a national Disabilities Act. We continued right up to voting day to try to get the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois to commit now to support the Canadians with Disabilities Act.  

We thank all the many wonderful people around this huge country who helped us wage this blitz. Attention now turns to the next important steps that we will need to take to turn this election commitment into action. Our aim is to get a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act enacted by Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.

To help with this process, Barrier-Free Canada’s Steering Committee has asked David Lepofsky to co-chair Barrier-Free Canada along with its founding co-chair Donna Jodhan. David Lepofsky has agreed to do so.

David Lepofsky is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, and led the ten-year campaign from 1994 to 2005 that resulted in the enactment of that provincial legislation. Donna Jodhan fought a successful case against the Federal Government under the disability equality provision of the Charter of Rights to force the Federal Government to make all its websites accessible to people with disabilities.  

We will have lots more to say about our next steps in the coming days and weeks.

MORE DETAILS

According to media reports this morning, the Liberals have won 184 seats. The NDP have won 44. The Greens have won 1. That totals 229 of the 338 seats in the next Parliament to be occupied by MPs in parties that went on the record in this election to support passage of the Canadians with Disabilities Act.

We are deeply indebted to those journalists and news organizations that provided coverage of this issue. To fill the gap, we made history by largely using social media (mainly Twitter and Facebook) to mount our campaign over the past two months. Once the votes were in, we provided non-partisan Twitter coverage of the election returns. Last night, we kept a running count on Twitter of how many MPs who were elected or leading had commited to supporting a Canadians with Disabilities Act. These tweets got a good amount of attention on social media.

Over this entire campaign, those who re-tweeted our tweets or fired off their own tweets on the CDA issue helped us ramp up pressure for the commitments we won. Our efforts were also reinforced by the disability organizations that lent their support and publicly endorsed our cause.

So what’s next? We propose three important priorities on this agenda for the new Government of Canada:

First, we urge incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ensure that a Canadians with Disabilities Act is a key part of his Government’s agenda as it takes over the reins of power. We ask the new Government to set a goal of enacting the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act and having it in force by the time Canada reaches its 150th birthday, on July 1, 2017.

That is an entirely realistic objective. In October 2003, a new Liberal Government took power in Ontario after being in opposition for 13 years. It, like the Trudeau Liberals, promised a new Disabilities Act. Under Premier Dalton McGuinty, the Ontario Liberal Government pledged to deliver a new accessibility law within one year. On October 12, 2004, one year after taking power, it introduced the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act into the Ontario Legislature for First Reading, after holding promised province-wide consultations on what that law should include. That law was passed 7 months later. It went into effect one month after that, on June 13, 2005.

In other words, that law was developed, passed, and brought into force in 1 year and 8 months. Here, the new Federal Government has the huge advantage of all the policy work that went into the Ontario legislation, and the Manitoba law that was passed in 2013.

Second, we urge incoming Prime Minister Trudeau to designate a minister with lead responsibility for this issue, and to give that minister clear directions to hold his Government’s promised consultation and to come forward with a bill within the time frame here proposed.

Third, we ask that these commitments be included in the Government’s first Throne Speech.

It is especially important for the Government to get right to work on this legislation for an additional reason. The Trudeau Liberals have made new infrastructure a major priority. We want to be sure that any new infrastructure spending complies with the Canadians with Disabilities Act, so that federal public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. If the Government delays developing the Canadians with Disabilities Act until after it makes any major infrastructure commitments, we will face the very real risk that public money will end up being used to create more disability barriers, or perpetuating existing ones.

We’ll have lots more to say about this in the coming weeks. Among the immediate priorities for Barrier-Free Canada will be the following:

* Expanding Barrier-Free Canada as a grassroots community coalition, and working together with others in Canada’s disability community on the CDA issue;

* Drawing on input from Canada’s disability community to develop a more detailed set of proposals of what the Canadians with Disabilities Act should include, building on Barrier-Free Canada’s 14 principles for that legislation.

* Developing good working relationships with all the federal political parties and the key players within the federal public service that will be dealing with this issue.

* Mounting a national campaign to build support for the Canadians with Disabilities Act in the public and the media to help ensure that the new Trudeau Government makes it a priority.

Feel free to email us any ideas you have on what the Canadians with Disabilities Act should include, and how we should achieve these goals. Send your input to info@barrierfreecanada.org  Please understand that because we are a volunteer organization, we may not be able to answer every email. But we promise that we will review them all, and will take them all into account as we come forward with further proposals for your input.

Let’s all take a deep breath, celebrate our landmark achievements to date, and get ready to plow into the hard work that lies ahead.