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On The International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, the AODA Alliance Calls on the Senate to Amend the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act” After the Trudeau Government Voted Down Key Amendments in the House of Commons


December 3, 2018 Toronto: A tenacious Ontario-based disability rights coalition, the AODA Alliance, unveils its plans to take a campaign for Canada to enact a strong national accessibility law to Canada’s Senate! The proposed “Accessible Canada Act” which the House of Commons passed last week, is too weak to achieve its goal of making Canada barrier-free for over five million people in Canada with disabilities. Therefore the Senate needs to hold public hearings next year, and to make key amendments that the Trudeau Government blocked in the House of Commons, according to the AODA Alliance, a non-partisan Ontario disability coalition.

To mark December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities, the AODA Alliance calls on the Senate to hold public hearings and to substantially strengthen Bill C-81, to fix its major deficiencies. Key deficiencies in the bill are spelled out in a powerful October 30, 2018 Open Letter to the Government, signed by 91 disability organizations including the AODA Alliance. (set out below)

“People with disabilities still face too many accessibility barriers in areas that the Federal Government regulates, like air or train travel, cable and internet TV service, and dealing with the Federal Government,” said David Lepofsky, who led the decade-long grassroots campaign for Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation, and now chairs the AODA Alliance which campaigns to get that Ontario law effectively implemented. “It’s good that the Trudeau Government said it wants to become a leader on accessibility by enacting a great law that will make Canada barrier-free, putting the disability community in a central role and relieving individuals with disabilities from having to battle each barrier they face, one at a time. However Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions but weak on implementation and enforcement. It’s strong on symbolism, but weak on substance.”

In October many disability organizations, of which the AODA Alliance is but one, each repeatedly pressed for substantial amendments during House of Commons Standing Committee hearings. Despite this, the Trudeau Government only allowed limited improvements to the bill, while systematically voting down opposition amendments that would have made this a strong law. Key problems with the bill include, e.g.

* It’s good the bill sets the goal of a barrier-free Canada, but it doesn’t set a deadline for achieving this, unlike Ontario’s accessibility law. People with disabilities must indefinitely wait for accessibility, possibly forever.

* It’s good the bill aims to be enforced, but it creates a confusing and complicated enforcement maze for people with disabilities to navigate. Many asked the Federal Government to simplify the bill, by designating one federal agency, the proposed new Accessibility Commissioner, to lead the bill’s enforcement. Instead, over strong objections from many, the bill splinters the bill’s enforcement among fully four federal agencies. Of these, the Canada Transportation Agency and the CRTC have poor track records and no expertise on accessibility. They and their procedures are feared to lean in favour of the industries they regulate.

* It’s good that the bill lets the Government enact enforceable regulations to set accessibility standards. However, the bill doesn’t require that any accessibility standard regulations ever be enacted, unlike Ontario’s accessibility law.

“We wouldn’t want the Canada Transportation Agency to ever enact an accessibility regulation under this legislation, as is,” said Lepofsky for the AODA Alliance. “That’s because the bill preserves the CTA’s harmful power to set rules on accessibility that could weaken our access rights, and that would take away our right to seek greater accessibility at a hearing under the CTA’s legislation.”

During House of Commons Third Reading Debates, the Trudeau Government CLAIMED that people with disabilities are “very happy” with this bill. Yet in a showing of a powerful consensus, 91 disability community organizations wrote the Federal Government the Open Letter, set out below, that details major problems with the bill that need to be fixed. The Trudeau Government’s limited amendments to the bill didn’t solve these concerns.

“The AODA Alliance chose the powerfully symbolic and internationally-celebrated International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, to call on the Senate to hold public hearings early in 2019 on this bill, to listen to the disability community, and to pass amendments needed to make this bill live up to the Federal Government’s stated intentions,” said Lepofsky. “If the Senate does so, the amended bill can return to the House of Commons for a final vote, with the 2019 federal election looming.”

At least five million people in Canada now have a physical, sensory, mental, intellectual, communication, learning or other disability. All others in Canada are bound to get a disability as they age. Especially on the eve of a federal election, no politician can disregard the needs of people with disabilities, the minority of everyone.

Contact: David Lepofsky,
Twitter: @aodaalliance
All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at:

Twitter hashtags: #AccessibleCanada #accessibility #IDPD #AODA

Key Background Links

For an updated list of the disability organizations that have signed the Open Letter (which is updated as more organizations sign on), visit

To read the AODA Alliance’s detailed September 27, 2018 brief to the House of Common’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, showing the full spectrum of amendments that the AODA Alliance itself requested, visit For further background on the campaign for a strong national accessibility law in Canada, and to see all the debates on Bill C-81 gathered in one place, visit

Open Letter Regarding the Need to Strengthen Bill C-81 Accessible Canada Act forwarded to the Federal Government by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities October 30, 2018

Dear Minister Qualtrough and HUMA Committee Members:
We the undersigned commend the Federal Government for committing to enact national accessibility legislation. As provincial and national disability rights organizations, we write to express significant concerns regarding Bill C-81. The following highlights our key concerns and reflects the concerns raised by our communities before the HUMA Committee. Amendments are essential to effectively remedy these concerns.

1. Bill C-81 requires timelines. Timelines are essential to ensure that key accessibility measures are taken. Timelines are also required so that progress on accessibility can be measured. In particular, we support recommendations for the Bill to include a timeline for achieving a Canada without barriers, and timelines by which accessibility standards are developed and enacted into law. Timelines are also needed for establishing the infrastructure necessary to implement the Bill.

2. Bill C-81 imposes no duty on Government to use the powers available in the Bill. We support recommendations to change the word may to shall to ensure that the Government implements key steps for achieving accessibility.

3. Bill C-81 requires federally-regulated organizations to establish accessibility plans. However, the Bill does not require these to be good plans. It does not require an organization to implement its accessibility plan.

4. Bill C-81 wrongly splinters the power to make accessibility standards (regulations) and the power to enforce the Bill across numerous Federal agencies. This splintering will make the Bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated, more costly, and will increase delay.

5. Bill C-81 wrongly gives the Federal Government and various federal agencies the sweeping, unjustified and unaccountable power to exempt organizations from a number of important accessibility obligations. The Government can even exempt itself.

6. The Bill does not require the Federal Government to use its readily-available power to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate barriers. The Bill must be amended to leverage the federal spending power, in order to promote accessibility.

7. The Federal Government is the largest organization that will have to obey this legislation. Therefore, the key federal agencies that will develop accessibility standards, oversee and enforce this legislation must be independent of the Federal Government. Under the Bill, they are not. They all report to the Federal Government. We support recommendations for amendments to ensure that CASDO, the Accessibility Commissioner and other key agencies are sufficiently independent.

8. Bill C-81 does not sufficiently address barriers created by poverty and intersectional discrimination. Nor does it address the unique barriers experienced by Indigenous and First Nations persons with disabilities.

9. Bill C-81 does not recognize ASL/lsq as the official languages of people who are Deaf.
We believe that if these priority changes are made, among the amendments to Bill C-81, this Bill has the potential to truly advance accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canada. We ask that the Bill be amended to address the concerns and objectives outlined above. These amendments are indispensable to ensure that the Bill achieves its purpose and potential.

In Solidarity,

Council of Canadians with Disabilities – Conseil des Canadians avec déficiences (CCD) Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
In addition to the concerns outlined in this open letter, CDAC recommends that Bill C-81 address communication as a domain across all federal jurisdictions and includes the needs of people with speech and language disabilities.ARCH, CCD and other disability organizations support CDACs recommendations. DAWN-RAFH Canada
Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL)
National Network for Mental Health (NNMH)
Independent Living Canada (ILC)
March of Dimes Canada
Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)
Barrier Free Canada Canada sans Barrières
Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)
People First of Canada
Canadian Centre on Disability Studies
Canadian Epilepsy Alliance/ LAlliance canadienne delépilepsie (CEA/ACE) National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) Muscular Dystrophy Canada
Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Association (CASDA)
Canadian Association of the Deaf Association des Sourds du Canada LArche Canada
Hydrocephalus Canada
AODA Alliance
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Québec Accessible
Views for the Visually Impaired
Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)
Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)
Community Living Ontario (CLO)
Barrier-Free Manitoba
Regroupement des associations de personnes Handicapées de lOutaouais (RAPHO) Barrier Free Saskatchewan
DeafBlind Ontario Services
Community Living Toronto (CLT)
Ontario Autism Coalition
Confédération desorganismes depersonneshandicapées du Québec (COPHAN) Canadian Multicultural Disability Centre, Inc. (CMDCI)
Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)
Northwest Territories Council for Disability
Voice of Albertans with Disabilities
Ontario Disability Coalition
SPH Planning and Consulting Ltd.
The Law, Disability & Social Change Project
Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)
Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
Nova Scotia Association for Community Living
Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunity
Disability Alliance of British Columbia
Disability Positive
Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (NL)
Realize / Réalise
Calgary Ability Network Human Rights
Down Syndrome Association of Ontario
Southern Alberta Individualized Planning Association
Gateway Association (Edmonton)
BALANCE for Blind Adults
Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians Toronto Chapter (AEBC Toronto Chapter) The Keremeos Measuring Up Team
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Aphasie Québec Le réseau
Association multiethnique pour lintégration des personnes handicapées DéPhyMontréal
Ex aequo
Regroupement des organismes de personnes handicapées du Centre-du-Québec
Regroupement des Usagers du Transport Adapté et accessible de lîle de Montréal (RUTA Mtl) Réseau international sur le Processus de production du handicap (RIPPH) Société logique
North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.
Older Women’s Network
Association dinformations en logements et immeubles adaptés (AILIA) Association du syndrome de Usher du Québec (ASUQ)
Réseau québécois pour linclusion sociale des personnes sourdes et malentendantes (ReQIS) Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Québec (RAAQ)
Saskatoon Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (C.I.L.T.) Inc
The League for Human Rights of Bnai Brith Canada – Ligue des driots de la personne de B’nai Brith Canada Barrier-Free New Brunswick
Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities
The BC Disability Caucus
The Independent Living Centre London and Area
Ontario Association of the Deaf (OAD)
Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)
Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)
Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities (NSLEO)
Alberta Disability Workers Association
reachAbility Association
Champions Career Centre
The Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities
Guide Dog Users of Canada
Action des femmes handicapées – Montréal