The Honourable David C. Onley and the Accessible Ontario Disability Act Are Laid To Rest

by Dean P. La Bute
January 31, 2023

My late colleague and friend, the Honourable David C. Onley, Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor, died on January 14, 2023, at the age of 72.

He served as Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor from 2007 to 2014. His funeral took place on Monday, the 30th of January, 2023 in Toronto.

It is of note, he was the first person with a visible disability to hold the post of LG, and worked tirelessly to break down barriers for Ontarians with disabilities throughout his adult life. In 2005, he was appointed to the position of the Founding Chair, of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council of Ontario (asac). As it happens, I am a founding member of this Council and its predecessor, the Ontario Disability Act Advisory Council.

When called upon, David was always up to a challenge. Therefore,when the Kathleen Wynn Liberal Government, asked him to conduct a legislative mandated, in depth review of Ontario’s Accessibilitytario’Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. True to form, he delivered a scathing indictment of nearly all aspects of the implementation of this law, in a report entitled “LISTENING TO ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES” submitted in March of 2019, to the Ontario Legislative Assembly.

Upon receipt of this highly anticipated seminal report by more than 2.6 million Ontarians with a Disability, along with their families and friends in 2019. The Doug Ford PC Government, deliberately chose to quietly tabled this report in the Ontario Legislative Assembly, in March of 2019.

Sadly, the 2005, unanimous promise made in the OLA, of a fully accessible Ontario for all Ontarians by 2025 along with the Onley Report and its author, the Honourable David C. Onley, have been laid to rest and never again to see the light of day in Ontario.

Dean P. La Bute is the founding Member of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council of Ontario

Guest column: Canada Disability Benefit will Hopefully Finally Achieve Disability Equality

Bill C-22, the proposed federal Canada Disability Benefit (CDB), passed its second reading before the New Year to much fanfare.

But it was clear it was too soon to celebrate. Canadians with disabilities desperately need the bill to pass third reading and move through the Senate quickly in 2023 so it can become law.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/guest-column-canada-disability-benefit-will-hopefully-finally-achieve-disability-equality/

McDonald’s Fired Man Who Worked There 37 Years In Violation Of ADA, Lawsuit Says

A man who received awards and accolades for his work as a McDonald’s grill cook was fired after 37 years of working for the fast food giant, federal officials said.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/mcdonalds-fired-man-who-worked-there-37-years-in-violation-of-ada-lawsuit-says/

Reflections on the House of Commons Third Reading Debates on Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act, Which Will Pass Today and Head to the Senate

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

February 2, 2023

SUMMARY

Yesterday, February 1, 2023, the House of Commons held its only day of Third Reading debates on Bill C-22, the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act. Today, the bill will be called for a Third Reading vote. It is expected to pass unanimously.

Below we offer our reflections on what MPs said during the one day of Third Reading debates on Bill C-22. After that, we set out the full text of the Third Reading debates, for anyone who wants to read it all.

Once the House of Commons passes the bill on Third Reading, it proceeds to the Senate for debates, hearings and votes on First, Second and Third Readings. Stay tuned for more on this story.

Bill C-22 remains a well-intentioned but weak bill. We will ask the Senate to strengthen it. Even after three Readings, debates and votes in the House of Commons, public hearings and clause-by-clause in a Standing Committee, we still dont know how much the Canada Disability Benefit will be, who will be eligible for it, or when the Government will start paying it.

Have you watched the new 7-minute AODA Alliance video that kicks off our non-partisan campaign to get the Senate to strengthen Bill C-22? Over 1,400 people have seen it since we posted it, less than a week ago! Check it out. It is at https://youtu.be/EoOYYY6ki6k

That video shows how the Trudeau Liberals already flip flopped on whether Bill C-22 could benefit from amendments to strengthen it. First they claimed it was just fine as it was originally written, and should not be amended. Then, as the video shows, the Liberals changed their tune, and said that several opposition amendments were excellent and strengthened the bill. Now, during third Reading debates set out below, Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk, speaking for the Government, went back to trying to argue that amendments were not needed. Flip flop flip!

To learn more about these issues, explore:

* What Bill C-22 says now, after all the amendments that were passed in the House of Commons so far.

* The December 12, 2022 AODA Alliance Update that gives a detailed analysis of the first day of HUMAs clause-by-clause review of Bill C-22, on December 7, 2022.

* The December 19, 2022 AODA Alliance Update that gives an analysis of the second day of clause-by-clause review of Bill C-22.

* The 21-minute captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofskys November 14, 2022 testimony at HUMA. It tells you all you need to know. Its concerns about the bill remain valid even after HUMAs amendments.

* The November 14, 2022 open letter on Bill C-22, originally signed by 37 organizations (now increased to 41) from six provinces across Canada, that the AODA Alliance tabled with the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

* The AODA Alliance brief to the House of Commons on Bill C-22.

* The AODA Alliances guest column in the November 7, 2022 edition of the Toronto Star, and the powerful Toronto Star editorial that day that cites the AODA Alliances concerns with Bill C-22.

* The AODA Alliance websites Bill C-22 page, which shows our efforts to strengthen this proposed new law.

MORE DETAILS

1. Reflections on Third Reading Debates on Bill C-22

On Third Reading, the political parties largely stuck to the same positions they advanced during the earlier Second Reading debates on the bill, and during the public hearings and clause-by-clause debates at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. The opposition parties echoed our concerns, describing the major ways this bill is so weak. It does not specify how much the Canada Disability Benefit will be, or who is eligible for it. It does not ensure that provinces wont clawback some of the Canada Disability Benefit. Everything will be decided by cabinet behind closed doors.

Here are our reflections on nine salient passages during Third Reading debates. First, we highlight an important point that Third Reading should have addressed but did not.

During the Third Reading process, the Government did not do anything to fix the mess that the Standing Committee created when it amended Section 14 of the bill. Section 14 directs when the bill goes into effect. The December 19, 2023 AODA Alliance Update explains why the amendment to s. 14 needs to be fixed. We expect that none of the parties would have objected to an amendment on Third Reading to fix it. However, the Liberals announced no effort to do this.

Therefore, it will be necessary for the Senate to clean up this entirely avoidable mess. The Government cannot credibly call on the Senate to just pass Bill C-22 without amendments.

Here are the nine passages from the Third Reading debates on which we wish to comment:

1. Minister Carla Qualtrough:

When I stood in the House to debate this bill at second reading, I declared that in Canada no person with a disability should live in poverty. There are more than 6.2 million people who identify as having a disability in Canada. That is one in five Canadians. The disability community is diverse, talented and innovative. We are family members, friends, neighbours and co-workers.

However, despite everything that the disability community has to offer our great country, the hard truth is that working-age persons with disability in Canada are two times more likely to live in poverty than persons without disabilities. The situation is even more precarious for persons with severe disabilities, women, indigenous people, LGBTQ2S+ and racialized Canadians with disabilities. This is compounded by the fact that persons with disabilities face higher costs of living to begin with. These are costs that make it harder for any person with a disability to save for their future.

This poverty has its roots in the historic and ongoing discrimination, bias and exclusion faced by persons with disabilities in our country. Another hard truth is that our systems, laws, policies and programs were not built with persons with disabilities in mind, nor were they built with persons with disabilities.

AODA Alliance Comment: As at Second Reading, the Trudeau Government said again here that no people with disabilities should live in poverty. However, this bill categorically excludes one third of people with disabilities over the age of 15 on account of their age, and regardless of whether they are living in poverty. It is limited to working age people with disabilities.

2. Minister Carla Qualtrough:

The Canada disability benefit is meant to be supplemental income, not replacement income. It is meant to lift people out of poverty and make them better off.

AODA Alliance Comment: Nothing in the bill will ensure that any people with disabilities will ever be lifted out of poverty.

3. Minister Carla Qualtrough:

Bill C-22 received unanimous support at second reading, and colleagues from all parties on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities worked together to improve this bill thoughtfully and considerately. I am grateful for their collaboration, and I believe this bill is stronger as a result of their work.

AODA Alliance Comment: The Trudeau Government concedes that amendments to the bill at the Standing Committee made it stronger. Yet the Liberal MPs on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, tried over and over to get witnesses at the hearings to agree that amendments were not needed.

4. Ms. Bonita Zarrillo (Port MoodyCoquitlam, NDP):

Madam Speaker, I want to start by acknowledging the minister for her commitment to equality.

My question is about the language around this being a supplementary benefit. I have heard from so many persons living with disabilities in Canada who say that even the poverty line is not enough to establish that they need help with the necessities of life. What will be the plan for the amount of this benefit?

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her partnership as we have taken this journey together toward the Canada disability benefit. It is absolutely imperative that, as we work with provinces and territories, we ensure provinces and territories do not treat this as replacement income and that they treat it as supplemental income. I am grateful for the member opposite’s inclusion in the amended bill of a specific reference to the national poverty line, which is an important reference. This bill is fundamentally about poverty reduction. As we all move forward, we all need to do our part to make sure this moves through the Senate quickly and we deliver what we said we would deliver for Canadians with disabilities.

AODA Alliance Comment: Even at Third Reading, the Trudeau Government did not answer a clear direct question regarding what the actual amount of the Canada Disability Benefit will be.

5. Mr. Mike Morrice (Kitchener Centre, GP):

Madam Speaker, while I appreciate the minister’s leadership on this bill, as she knows, 10% of seniors with disabilities are living in poverty. She knows poverty does not magically end for Canadians with disabilities when they turn 65, and neither should the Canada disability benefit.

Can she explain why the governing party did not include seniors with disabilities living in poverty in this bill?

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Madam Speaker, we have a robust social safety net in this country. Kids with disabilities have access to the Canada child benefit disability supplement until they are 18. Seniors with disabilities have access to old age security and GIS when they turn 65. However, there is a massive gap, a gaping hole in our social safety net. That is what the Canada disability benefit is meant to fill, that gap between the Canada child benefit disability and the OAS and GIS.

AODA Alliance Comment: The Trudeau Government did not dispute that 10% of seniors with disabilities live in poverty. Yet Bill C-22, unless amended, excludes any people with disabilities who are not working age.

6. Mr. Irek Kusmierczyk (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Lib.):

Here we are. The fact is that the issue of the deep poverty experienced by persons with disabilities in Canada and the issue of MAID have become intertwined. It has been well established in this place and at the HUMA committee that persons with disabilities face higher levels of poverty than other Canadians. Living with dignity is a far-off hope for many in these circumstances, and some persons with disabilities have, unfortunately and tragically, chosen to apply for MAID in the past year, with poverty being the key driver. The sad fact is that eligibility for MAID has expanded faster than have the social supports that would lift persons with disabilities out of poverty and allow them to live with dignity.

This thought is shared by stakeholders. For example, Amit Arya, a palliative care physician on faculty at the University of Toronto and McMaster University, mentions in his urgent plea that, given the critical impact on persons with disabilities, we need to prioritize Bill C-22.

AODA Alliance Comment: We appreciate this candid admission by the Trudeau Government that doctor-assisted suicide has been liberalized more quickly than have supports for people with disabilities who are languishing in poverty.

7. Mr. Irek Kusmierczyk (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Lib.):

There is a dire need for the Canada disability benefit, and it has strong public support. In fact, the public is applying pressure for us to act quickly. During and after the study of the bill at the HUMA committee, stakeholders had the opportunity to testify, submit briefs and share their opinions in the media. There was a consensus on the need to try to determine all the details of the proposed benefit in the legislation but not to perfect it, as the key objective is to move quickly to respond to the urgent need now.

AODA Alliance Comment: It is simply false that there was a consensus among presenters at the Standing Committee to leave it to the regulations to decide all the details about the Canada Disability Benefit. Many, including the AODA Alliance, argued strongly that the bill needed to be strengthened to include important details. None of the Liberals on that Standing Committee, including Mr. Kusmierczyk, asked AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky a single question about this when afforded the chance.

8. Mrs. Tracy Gray (KelownaLake Country, CPC):

Madam Speaker, my question is with respect to negotiations that will be going on with the provinces and also how this will affect existing federal programs. How can the member assure people with disabilities that there would not be clawbacks that might occur, whether in interactions with provincial or existing federal programs?

Mr. Irek Kusmierczyk:

Madam Speaker, that is an excellent question and one of the central questions of this framework, which is working together with the provinces and territories, working together with the disability community and, frankly, working together with all Canadians to make certain that there would be absolutely no clawbacks on existing programs at the provincial or territorial level. That is central to the Canada disability benefit.

AODA Alliance Comment: The Government was clearly asked what is being done to ensure that there will be no clawbacks of the Canada Disability Benefit. The Liberal Governments response included lofty rhetoric but no concrete specifics.

9. Mr. Irek Kusmierczyk:

This bill would have an immediate impact, lifting hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of poverty and improving the situation for many hundreds of thousands more Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

AODA Alliance Comment: Nothing in the bill assures that the Canada Disability Benefit will be large enough to lift any people with disabilities out of poverty. During clause-by-clause debate over this bill at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, an opposition amendment was proposed to ensure that the Canada Disability Benefit would be large enough to lift its recipients above the official poverty line. The Liberal MP who chaired that Standing Committee ruled that proposed amendment out of order. The Trudeau Government did not do anything to reverse that decision.

2. Full Text of Third Reading Debates Bill C-22 The Canada Disability Benefit Act

Hansard House of Commons February 1, 2023
Originally posted at https://www.ourcommons.ca/documentviewer/en/house/latest/hansard

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2023

Volume 151
1st SESSION
44th PARLIAMENT
OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

(1625)

[English]

Canada Disability Benefit Act

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-22, An Act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada disability benefit and making a consequential amendment to the Income Tax Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes):

There being no motions at report stage on this bill, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Hon. Carla Qualtrough (Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Lib.) moved that the bill be concurred in.

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes):

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division or wishes to request a recorded division, I invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

Some hon. members: On division.

(Motion agreed to)

Hon. Carla Qualtrough moved that the bill be read the third time and passed. She said: Madam Speaker, before I begin I would like to seek unanimous consent to share my time with my friend and favourite parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for WindsorTecumseh.

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes):

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to share her time?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): The hon. minister.

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today for third reading of Bill C-22, an act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada disability benefit.

I acknowledge that I am standing on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe peoples. I would like to begin by paying tribute to the late Hon. David C. Onley. David was many things, a journalist, an author, the 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, a husband and a father. David was also a person with a disability and was a lifelong advocate for accessibility and disability inclusion.

To me and to so many of us in the disability community, he was a trailblazer. He was one of us. He showed us that we, too, could lead and make change happen. He showed us that we not only deserved a seat at the table, but that we had a right to be there. Our opinions and perspectives were not only valuable but they were necessary. Canada is a better place because of the late Hon. David C. Onley, and we miss him.

When I stood in the House to debate this bill at second reading, I declared that in Canada no person with a disability should live in poverty. There are more than 6.2 million people who identify as having a disability in Canada. That is one in five Canadians. The disability community is diverse, talented and innovative. We are family members, friends, neighbours and co-workers.

However, despite everything that the disability community has to offer our great country, the hard truth is that working-age persons with disability in Canada are two times more likely to live in poverty than persons without disabilities. The situation is even more precarious for persons with severe disabilities, women, indigenous people, LGBTQ2S+ and racialized Canadians with disabilities. This is compounded by the fact that persons with disabilities face higher costs of living to begin with. These are costs that make it harder for any person with a disability to save for their future.

This poverty has its roots in the historic and ongoing discrimination, bias and exclusion faced by persons with disabilities in our country. Another hard truth is that our systems, laws, policies and programs were not built with persons with disabilities in mind, nor were they built with persons with disabilities.

For many persons with disabilities, the first time they experience financial security is when they turn age 65. Why? At age 65 they start receiving OAS and GIS benefits. This is unacceptable, especially in Canada. This is the backdrop for Bill C-22. Bill C-22 is about poverty reduction. It is about financial security.

[Translation]

Bill C?22 gives us an opportunity to close the income gap for working-age people with disabilities in Canada. Financial security brings with it independence, dignity, autonomy and choice. The Canada disability benefit would build on the work we have done to make Canada more inclusive for all people with disabilities.

[English]

In 2016, we started a national conversation that led to the creation of the Accessible Canada Act. It is historic legislation with a goal of creating a barrier-free Canada by 2040. The Accessible Canada Act, or ACA, enshrined accessibility and disability inclusion in law.

ACA principles are finding their way into other laws, including Bill C-22. These principles include equality of opportunity and barrier-free access. They also include the principle of nothing without us, that persons with disabilities must be involved in the development and design of laws, policies, programs, services and structures.

The Accessible Canada Act also created significant elements of a new system of disability inclusion in Canada. These include Accessibility Standards Canada, the accessibility commissioner at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and the chief accessibility officer for Canada.

[Translation]

After laying the groundwork with the Accessible Canada Act, we then launched the first-ever disability inclusion action plan. Developed in partnership with the disability community, it includes a series of current and future initiatives to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Canada.

[English]

The action plan has four pillars, which were identified by the disability community as key priorities. These are financial security, employment, accessible and inclusive communities, and a modern approach to disabilities.

Bill C-22 is a foundational component of the first pillar. It would provide financial security for persons with disabilities, like the GIS does for seniors and the Canada child benefit does for children.

Bill C-22 would create the legal framework for the Canada disability benefit. The specifics of the benefit would be regulated in collaboration with the disability community and the provinces and territories.

[Translation]

This approach ensures more opportunities for the disability community to actively participate in the design and implementation of benefits, consistent with the principle of the Accessible Canada Act.

[English]

This approach also recognizes the jurisdiction of provinces and territories in the area of disability supports as well as the complexity and uniqueness of each provincial and territorial system. We have been working collaboratively with the provinces and territories on how this benefit would align with and complement their existing services and supports, and to ensure that benefit interaction would not result in unintended consequences, like clawbacks or disentitlement to existing services or benefits.

The Canada disability benefit is meant to be supplemental income, not replacement income. It is meant to lift people out of poverty and make them better off. I know that my provincial and territorial colleagues share a commitment to improving the lives of persons with disabilities across this country.

I reflected a lot on Bill C-22 and the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act received unanimous support from all parties in the House. Bill C-22 received unanimous support at second reading, and colleagues from all parties on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities worked together to improve this bill thoughtfully and considerately. I am grateful for their collaboration, and I believe this bill is stronger as a result of their work. I am confident that there will be unanimous consent in the House at third reading as well.
Both the Accessible Canada Act and Bill C-22 are examples of us, as parliamentarians, at our very best. We rose above partisanship and came together to make generational change. I know that this same spirit will infuse consideration of this bill by the Senate. I know that senators are eager to begin their work on this bill. More than half of the Senate’s members wrote an open letter calling for the urgent adoption of Bill C-22.

Canadians are also calling for the swift adoption of Bill C-22. Nearly nine in 10 Canadians support the creation of the Canada disability benefit. In an open letter to the Prime Minister and me, more than 200 Canadians, former parliamentarians, academics, business people, union leaders, economists, health care workers and disability advocates, expressed their support for the creation of this benefit. More than 18,000 Canadians signed an e-petition asking us to fast-track the design and implementation of this benefit.

All members of the House unanimously supported a motion from the member for Port MoodyCoquitlam to implement the Canada disability benefit without delay. I hear regularly from constituents, as I believe so many of us do, about the importance of this benefit, how it will be life changing for individuals and bring peace of mind to families.

In closing, I want to thank those from the disability community. This is their victory. They have had to fight every step of the way and nothing was handed to them. As much as we all know that there remains so much more work to do, they should take time to celebrate. Their advocacy and their unwavering determination are what got us here.

I will also end where I began, with reflection on the life and advocacy of the Hon. David C. Onley. David challenged us as leaders and policy-makers to address disability discrimination and to allow each and every one of us to reach our full potential. He was among the many who have called for the swift passage of Bill C-22. As I vote in favour of this bill, I will be thinking about David, and I know that many here will as well.

(1635)

Mrs. Tracy Gray (KelownaLake Country, CPC):

Madam Speaker, the minister spoke about getting this legislation through quickly and said there were a lot of people advocating for this over a long period of time. The minister and her party have been in government for eight years, and here we are eight years later now bringing forth a piece of legislation with few details. We know this exact same piece of legislation was tabled in the last Parliament and it died when the snap election was called.

How can the minister justify saying this is a priority and that the Liberals want to do this quickly, when they have had eight years?

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Madam Speaker, this has been quite a journey for our government, for the disability community and for Canadians. We started, as I said, with the Accessible Canada Act, where we held the most inclusive and disability-friendly consultations any government in the history of our country has had. This led to the identification of priorities by the disability community and to the disability inclusion action plan that has brought us here to the Canada disability benefit. I am so very proud of the work this government has done and so very proud and grateful for the collaboration of the disability community. I look forward to keeping the momentum going as we continue to do big things and make big change.

Ms. Bonita Zarrillo (Port MoodyCoquitlam, NDP):

Madam Speaker, I want to start by acknowledging the minister for her commitment to equality.

My question is about the language around this being a supplementary benefit. I have heard from so many persons living with disabilities in Canada who say that even the poverty line is not enough to establish that they need help with the necessities of life. What will be the plan for the amount of this benefit?

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her partnership as we have taken this journey together toward the Canada disability benefit. It is absolutely imperative that, as we work with provinces and territories, we ensure provinces and territories do not treat this as replacement income and that they treat it as supplemental income. I am grateful for the member opposite’s inclusion in the amended bill of a specific reference to the national poverty line, which is an important reference. This bill is fundamentally about poverty reduction. As we all move forward, we all need to do our part to make sure this moves through the Senate quickly and we deliver what we said we would deliver for Canadians with disabilities.

Mr. Mike Morrice (Kitchener Centre, GP):

Madam Speaker, while I appreciate the minister’s leadership on this bill, as she knows, 10% of seniors with disabilities are living in poverty. She knows poverty does not magically end for Canadians with disabilities when they turn 65, and neither should the Canada disability benefit.
Can she explain why the governing party did not include seniors with disabilities living in poverty in this bill?

Hon. Carla Qualtrough:

Madam Speaker, we have a robust social safety net in this country. Kids with disabilities have access to the Canada child benefit disability supplement until they are 18. Seniors with disabilities have access to old age security and GIS when they turn 65. However, there is a massive gap, a gaping hole in our social safety net. That is what the Canada disability benefit is meant to fill, that gap between the Canada child benefit disability and the OAS and GIS.

(1640)

Mr. Irek Kusmierczyk (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Lib.):

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying how proud I am to stand next to the hon. Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. Her inspiring, collaborative leadership to usher this bill forward will be life-changing for so many Canadians in this country, and it certainly has been an honour of my life to be able to work alongside the minister on this incredibly important initiative for Canadians.

I am pleased to rise to participate in this debate on Bill C-22. I will use my time today to speak to the urgency of the situation that has led to the need for this bill.

Here we are. The fact is that the issue of the deep poverty experienced by persons with disabilities in Canada and the issue of MAID have become intertwined. It has been well established in this place and at the HUMA committee that persons with disabilities face higher levels of poverty than other Canadians. Living with dignity is a far-off hope for many in these circumstances, and some persons with disabilities have, unfortunately and tragically, chosen to apply for MAID in the past year, with poverty being the key driver. The sad fact is that eligibility for MAID has expanded faster than have the social supports that would lift persons with disabilities out of poverty and allow them to live with dignity.

This thought is shared by stakeholders. For example, Amit Arya, a palliative care physician on faculty at the University of Toronto and McMaster University, mentions in his urgent plea that, given the critical impact on persons with disabilities, we need to prioritize Bill C-22.

There is a dire need for the Canada disability benefit, and it has strong public support. In fact, the public is applying pressure for us to act quickly. During and after the study of the bill at the HUMA committee, stakeholders had the opportunity to testify, submit briefs and share their opinions in the media. There was a consensus on the need to try to determine all the details of the proposed benefit in the legislation but not to perfect it, as the key objective is to move quickly to respond to the urgent need now. Allow me to amplify some of those testimonies.

Rabia Khedr, from Disability Without Poverty, underscores the urgency. In an article she said, justice delayed is justice denied and that if we wait for this legislative process to determine all of the details of a perfect benefit, its arrival will be too late….

Tom Jackman, also from Disability Without Poverty, echoes her words, saying, Canadians with disabilities desperately need the bill to pass third reading and move through the Senate quickly [in 2023] so it can become law….

Disability Without Poverty is supported in its view by numerous organizations like Community Food Centres Canada, Inclusion Canada, March of Dimes, Plan Institute and Finautonome, alongside philanthropists, unions and corporations like Maple Leaf Foods that are all asking us to do the right thing and hurry up.

During his testimony at HUMA, Gary Gladstone, head of stakeholder relations at Reena, underlined the point that amendments would slow down the bill. He said, From what I understand, regulation at this point would be faster in making any changes… and the bottom line is that if they can be done appropriately and quickly, that’s most important.

This was echoed by Neil Belanger, the chief executive officer of Indigenous Disability Canada. He said he has confidence in the process that will involve persons with disabilities at the regulatory stage, and his clients are urging us to move forward with the bill as it is.

Krista Carr, the executive vice-president of Inclusion Canada, affirms this point of view as well. She has heard about the requests by members for the bill to contain more details regarding the design of the proposed benefit, as well as other technical elements. While she says she understands the motivations behind this, she does not believe this is the best course of action. Her biggest fear is that we will get bogged down in the details and greatly delay the passage of the bill.

(1645)

Allow me to quote directly from her testimony to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development on November 16, 2022. She stated:
With all due respect to the parliamentarians on this committee and beyond, in the spirit of nothing without us, we feel really strongly that it is persons with disabilities, their families and representative organizations who should be working arm in arm with government to design this benefit through the regulatory process….

My final plea to you as members of this committee is that if you truly want to make a historic impact on the lives of people with disabilities in this country, and I know you all do, you will do everything in your power to ensure that this bill passes as quickly as possible so that we can get…this benefit into the hands of people who desperately need it.

That is why certain amendments did not make it into the bill. Some were even dropped by the members who put them forward after they had heard the arguments from witnesses. For example, it is much better to have the disability community involved in shaping the regulations rather than have Parliament review each regulation as it is drafted.

That being said, certain amendments did make it into the bill, and I am happy to say the bill is stronger for it. For example, we have included the definition of disability from the Accessible Canada Act. In the interest of transparency, we have made it a requirement that the minister would publicize any agreements made with federal or provincial or territorial departments and agencies. New reporting requirements to Parliament on how persons with disabilities have been engaged on the regulations, as well as increased frequency of reporting to Parliament on the bill, would respond to some concerns members had around the role of Parliament. These amendments, along with other provisions of the bill, would provide Parliament with an ongoing check and balance on the proposed benefit going forward.

We have enshrined in the bill that the application process would have to be barrier-free, consistent with the vision of the Accessible Canada Act. A timeline is also enshrined in the bill. The act would have to come into force no later than one year after royal assent.

Bill C-22 has been on a journey through the HUMA committee. I thank the members for their diligence. The bill is stronger for their work, their input and their collaboration. However, as members of the disability community and their allies say, it is now time to act.

The bill before us today would establish the proposed benefit and start the clock on the creation of the regulations that would implement it. We would do this with the members of the disability community. As the minister of disability inclusion says, let us get it done.

Mrs. Tracy Gray (KelownaLake Country, CPC):

Madam Speaker, my question is with respect to negotiations that will be going on with the provinces and also how this will affect existing federal programs. How can the member assure people with disabilities that there would not be clawbacks that might occur, whether in interactions with provincial or existing federal programs?

Mr. Irek Kusmierczyk:

Madam Speaker, that is an excellent question and one of the central questions of this framework, which is working together with the provinces and territories, working together with the disability community and, frankly, working together with all Canadians to make certain that there would be absolutely no clawbacks on existing programs at the provincial or territorial level. That is central to the Canada disability benefit.

[Translation]

Mr. Luc Thériault (Montcalm, BQ):

Madam Speaker, at the beginning of his speech, my colleague made a connection between the situation of people living with a disability and medical assistance in dying. He said that some people with disabilities would ask for MAID, or that MAID would be more accessible. First of all, the Bloc supports this bill. We believe that an individual impairment should not be regarded as a disability. Disability is a social construct.

That said, where is the member getting his facts? Medical assistance in dying providers do evaluations. No one who appeared before the Standing Committee on Health told us up front that the member opposite’s claims are common practice. On the contrary, just because someone has a structural determinant, like poverty, does not necessarily mean they will be eligible for MAID. Where is the member getting this information?

(1650)

[English]

Mr. Irek Kusmierczyk:

Madam Speaker, we have been hearing from Canadians about tragic situations and stories where crushing poverty is sometimes a factor in someone making that very difficult and very personal decision. That should never be a factor. Obviously, we know that one in five Canadians have a disability, and we know that about one in five Canadians with disabilities live in poverty.

This bill would have an immediate impact, lifting hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of poverty and improving the situation for many hundreds of thousands more Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Ms. Laurel Collins (Victoria, NDP):

Madam Speaker, I had a meeting with two of my constituents from Victoria. They are seniors with disabilities, and they came with two big questions when they heard about the disability benefit. One of them has already been asked: Why are they being left out? They are living below the poverty line. Even with the supports offered in old age, they are struggling to make ends meet, and they wanted to know why they were left out of this bill. How would the member respond to these two seniors with disabilities? They also brought up the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the importance not only of having income supports but also really creating a barrier-free Canada.

Does the government have plans to put into law some of the incredible provisions in that convention?

Mr. Irek Kusmierczyk:

Madam Speaker, the Canada disability benefit is one piece of the puzzle as we seek to look after Canadians. Obviously this government has increased OAS by 10%, which is the first increase to OAS we have seen in well over 30 years. Therefore, we are putting in place programs that look after Canadians in all stages and all phases of life, from the very young to the very old.

At the same time, we are committed to implementing the measures and principles of the United Nations declaration. Whether we are working through the disability inclusion action plan or the Canada disability benefit, we advance the principles in the United Nations declaration.

Mrs. Tracy Gray (KelownaLake Country, CPC):

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to split my time with the member for RenfrewNipissingPembroke.

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes):

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to split her time? Some hon. members: Agreed.

Mrs. Tracy Gray:

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to speak to Bill C-22 as the official opposition shadow minister for employment, future workforce development and disability inclusion.

Conservatives are committed to increasing support for Canadians living with disabilities. More than one in five Canadians live with a disability. This is not an insignificant number. In fact, this is not a number; these are people.

Disabled Canadians are underemployed. In 2017, Statistics Canada reported that approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities were employed, compared with around 80% of those without disabilities.

I have always believed in going to where people are. This is why I door knocked for the year leading up to the 2019 election, reaching more than 30,000 doorsteps in my community of KelownaLake Country. One thing I will always remember is how many people I came across in their homes were people with disabilities. A family member would often tell me the story of their family. Truly, a disability is often a family journey.

Canadians living with disabilities may face high costs for assisted devices, equipment or prescriptions. One of the most onerous costs remains accessibility renovations and modifications to a home. This is especially onerous considering that the governments age well initiative fund did not include the home and vehicle modification program. These are not optional expenses. We are talking about life-saving items, necessities or items that can exponentially improve someone’s standard of living. If someone is fortunate enough to have family support, this is often how they can manoeuvre as a family to try to get services and have the best quality of life.

While some challenges are beyond the immediate scope of this House, as parliamentarians, we owe it to Canadians living with disabilities to put forward legislation that will allow them to continue to survive, succeed and hopefully thrive.

While the intention to support the disability community remains, Bill C-22, the disability benefit act, will not ensure on its own that Canadians living with disabilities are not living in poverty. This is because the most important details of this bill, such as eligibility, payment amount, application process, provincial co-operation and how it will interact with other programs, which could potentially create clawbacks, are left to be determined by regulation.

Essentially, we are debating a benefit that has not been determined yet. Canadians living with disabilities deserve legislation that is committed to them through concrete action, not promises. I want to make sure this legislation moves forward, but I want to be very clear and on record that the government has been lazy and taken the easy way out; getting disability benefits to people who need them has not been a priority.

Regardless of what the minister and the other Liberal MPs announce and say, the facts speak for themselves. The Liberals have been in government for eight years, and they had all that time to consult and come up with legislation. Although the Liberals have said they consulted with affected persons and advocacy groups, they tabled the exact same piece of legislation in the previous Parliament. It died when the Liberals called the unnecessary, expensive snap election in the summer of 2021. Moreover, this is Bill C-22. That means there were 21 bills before this one in this Parliament, even though this bill is exactly the same as it was in the last Parliament. A disability benefit act has not been their priority. This is how the Liberals govern: make big announcements with photo ops but with no substance, action or results. They have a track record of governing through regulations.

There are few assurances of what this legislation will achieve. The regulations will be drafted behind closed doors. There will be no debate in Parliament; there will be no voting in Parliament. There will be no scrutiny at committees. This is the Liberal way of governing by regulations.

The only policy decision this bill does clearly define is that more than one-third of Canadians living with disabilities over the age of 15 will not receive this benefit, regardless of how poor they are. It is estimated that more than half a million Canadians have invisible disabilities. Just because someone appears to be in good health does not mean that they may not face hardships. We do not know if people with invisible disabilities or those with episodic disabilities will be eligible under this disability benefit act. It is one of the many questions. (1655)

People living with a disability do not always fit the traditional mould. We know that there will be an appeals process for Canadians living with disabilities who have been denied supports and benefits. The amount of the benefit remains unclear.

I am very concerned about potential clawbacks. Conservatives attempted to put an amendment in this legislation at the committee stage to potentially address federal benefit clawbacks. However, the Liberals did not support our amendment. The minister told us that she is trying to negotiate agreements with provinces so that there will be no clawbacks. The problem is that these agreements may not be enforceable, and since there is nothing in Bill C-22 to confirm this, in its current form, it would not provide any safeguards against clawbacks.

This is the opposite process to what the Liberals are championing with their child care bill. There, they negotiated with the provinces and signed deals and then came to Parliament with legislation. With this disability benefit, there are literally no details in the legislation, and the Liberals are going to the provinces to work out the agreements. The cost of living is not the same across Canada, and this legislation on its own would not provide the assurance that there would be no provincial or regional disparity.

Some questions remain. How would the benefit be impacted if there were provincial changes to disability supports? Who would qualify? What would the amounts be? Who would deliver the benefit? Would the benefit count as income? How would the benefit be paid? Would it disqualify people from provincial supports? Would it disqualify people from federal supports? These are all questions that the government has failed to answer.

I have seen disability affect my family, like many people. My mom had one week of respite in 30 years of looking after my dad, who had MS. She is the strongest person I know, and there are many people in Canada living through these types of situations in their families.

At the Standing Committee on Human Resources, we heard from individuals and organizations, both testifying in person and writing in. They represented thousands of persons with disabilities across the country. One of the most heartbreaking things I heard was that people were considering MAID because they could not access services or afford to live. People said they could not afford to buy healthy food and follow the Canada food guide, which the Liberals announced with great fanfare in 2019. The current Liberal government does not realize the desperate situation many people are in because of the 40-year high in inflation.

To conclude, as I mentioned earlier, the level of disability poverty in Canada remains a prominent issue, and we have a responsibility to do better. Conservatives are committed to increasing support for Canadians living with disabilities. Therefore, I can say that we are all in agreement that the Canada disability benefit act must be passed, although there are so many unanswered questions. The Liberals have set this up such that they are doing everything in a non-transparent way behind closed doors, and neither parliamentarians nor the greater public through committee will have a say as to what the final regulations will be. Conservatives will remain vigilant in holding the government to account on promises it has made to persons with disabilities.

(1700)

Mr. Lloyd Longfield (Guelph, Lib.):

Madam Speaker, I was listening carefully to the hon. member across the way to see her support, which I believe I saw in some of her commentary.

I spoke with a constituent in my riding in January; she told me she was on the Ontario disability support program. She was on rent geared to income. She was accessing food bank services and really struggling to have things come together financially so that she could get through another month. Could the hon. member comment on the urgency of our getting this through the House through all-party support, as well as including the disability community in getting direct input on how we can avoid clawbacks and other things that would negatively affect them?

Mrs. Tracy Gray:

Madam Speaker, yes, we agree that we absolutely need to get supports. At the committee level, we worked really hard with all committee members to make sure that we moved this legislation forward with some meaningful amendments. However, the government made it very clear that pretty much everything would be determined in regulations, so that is where it is.
That being said, we were supportive at committee with moving forward and making some amendments, which we did, and we worked with everyone. Talking about clawbacks, they are definitely a concern. This is an issue that the current government has not been able to determine, even though it has had eight years to come to the point where we are tonight.

Ms. Rachel Blaney (North IslandPowell River, NDP):

Madam Speaker, I know that I talk a lot in this place about having a bar of dignity that no one falls beneath in this country, and I think what we are seeing across the board is a lot of folks who are falling below that bar of dignity.

Persons with disabilities have been very clear. I have to say that I appreciate their advocacy and I am really sad that they have to fight so hard just to be treated with proper human decency and respect.

We know for a fact that, even though I will support this bill and have done everything I can, along with my colleagues, to make sure that this gets through, it will still take about a year until the benefit is even out the door to people living with disabilities.

I have talked to folks in my communities who are living with disabilities, who are living in housing where they do not even have a stove or anything, with a tiny fridge, so they are trying to find a way to feed themselves. They cannot do things because it is a lot of work for them with their mobility issues.

I am just wondering if the member could talk about how important it is that this government work hard to make sure that there are no clawbacks from territorial or provincial governments. (1705)

Mrs. Tracy Gray:

Madam Speaker, absolutely, it has to be a priority. It is something that we talked about a lot at committee and it absolutely has to be a priority to consider that individuals do not have clawbacks.

I see my colleague here from the NDP who is on our committee. It was Conservatives and other opposition members who were making sure that, even though we wanted to move things along at committee, we did have enough time to hear from people. It was really important for all of us to make sure of that, because we knew that there were a lot of individuals and a lot of groups who wanted to testify, who wanted to bring in written submissions. We wanted to make sure that what we were receiving was inclusive and that we had enough time. We heard from hundreds of organizations and people.

I just want everyone to know that they were heard. I, myself, personally read every single one of the written submissions that came in and that was definitely part of the consideration for where our comments came from.

Mr. Mike Morrice (Kitchener Centre, GP):

Madam Speaker, I want to start by thanking the member for KelownaLake Country for her support of important amendments at committee from myself and others. It was an incredibly constructive process.

As she states, if this bill passed, nothing would change until the governing party funds the Canada disability benefit. I would love to hear from her if she and others in her party will be putting pressure on the governing party to fund the Canada disability benefit in budget 2023.

Mrs. Tracy Gray:

Madam Speaker, I think one of the biggest revelations that came out early on, when we were questioning the minister at committee, was how long they were expecting the regulation time frame to take place. They kept talking about the fact that they had been doing consultations already and they wanted to move things along.

Once we started to have a discussion, I said at committee that this actually sounds like it is going to be a year after royal assent when in fact things are finalized, and it would be more than a year before people receive benefits. That was acknowledged by the minister at committee and I think we were all quite surprised by that. We definitely were quite shocked to hear that information, that it would take that much longer.

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (RenfrewNipissingPembroke, CPC):

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of Canadians living with disabilities in the Ontario Winter Games-hosting riding of RenfrewNipissingPembroke.

Bill C-22, the false hope bill, meets the Liberals’ net-zero goal. There is net-zero benefit to Canadians living with disabilities. After eight years of incompetence and corruption, the Liberal approach is to deny, delay and deflect. If dragging their feet were an Olympic sport, the Liberals would sweep the podium.

In 2015, with unanimous support, the House passed my private member’s bill to protect Canadians living with disabilities from predatory vulture companies. These vultures offered to help Canadians living with disabilities complete the disability tax credit form. After completing a one-page form, these companies charged up to 30% of the tax credit intended for Canadians facing additional living costs due to disabilities. Thousands of Canadians lost millions of dollars to these vultures.

Sadly, for Canadians living with disabilities, my bill was passed shortly before the Liberals took power. Whether out of partisan spite or just Liberal indifference to Canadians living with disabilities, this gang took seven years to pass one page of regulations required to make the law actually work, seven years of predatory vulture companies taking a 30% cut of the disability tax credit. It took them seven years to pass regulations that can be printed on a single sheet of paper. It took them seven years to help Canadians living with disabilities. Now they are at it again.

Bill C-22 was originally Bill C-35. It had to be reintroduced after the Prime Minister called his superspreader pandemic election campaign. Canadians living with disabilities need to remember that the political interests of the Liberal Party always come first.
It has been three years since this bill was introduced, but even if I could snap my fingers and pass the bill right now, Canadians living with disabilities would still not see any help from the government. That is because the bill is TBD, to be determined. How much will the benefit be? That is TBD. Will the benefits be clawed back? That is TBD. Who is even eligible to receive it? That is, again, T bleeping D.

At committee, the minister said that it would be at least a year before Canadians living with disabilities would have the answers to those basic questions. My private member’s bill to protect Canadians living with disabilities from vulture companies required just one regulation, and the regulation was to set a maximum amount these vultures could charge. It took seven years to set the maximum at $100.

Canadians living with disabilities waited seven years for one regulation from the Liberals, and now the Liberals are claiming they will pass the dozens of required regulations in one year. It
would actually be a great relief to Canadians living with disabilities if the government admitted
the delay in regulating vulture companies was out of partisan spite. If that was not the reason for the delay, it means the government is incompetent. It means Canadians living with disabilities could be waiting years for financial assistance, and that is unacceptable.

It is why Conservatives pushed for and successfully secured an amendment requiring the minister to report back in six months of this bill passing on the progress to pass the required regulations. The challenge is that this type of accountability measure only works in governments with the capacity to feel shame. Unfortunately, shamelessness is a defining feature of the Prime Minister and his government. I am not the first one to say the Prime Minister cares more about style over substance. Former finance minister Morneau literally wrote a book about it.

This disability benefit act might just be the purest form of the Liberals’ style-over-substance problem. There are no dollars budgeted for this bill, yet to hear the government members speak, Canadians might think this bill has already passed and completely solved poverty.
However, a press release is not policy, and the devil is always in the details. In the case of this proposed disability benefit, the devil is the clawback, and the details are the provinces. (1710)

My colleagues on the committee proposed an amendment to prevent the benefit from being clawed back. The Liberals voted against it. The minister claims a clawback is a red line when negotiating the creation of a benefit with the provinces, yet the Liberals voted against putting that into legislation. How can the minister claim a red line exists for the government when the Liberals voted against it?

If Canadians living with disabilities are worried about the government’s track record on passing regulations, that should be doubly true with any required negotiations with the provinces. I know some Liberals will point to the speed at which they negotiated with the provinces on $10-a-day day care. That was some negotiating: Here is some money. Go spend it on day care. Negotiating the disability benefit will be much harder. In this case, the provinces have some actual leverage. How many Liberals will appreciate this leverage will depend more on the electoral fortunes of the Liberal Party in that particular province.

Inevitably, this will leave Canadians living with disabilities facing a patchwork of policies, depending on the province. Sorry, Madam Speaker, I misspoke. Inevitable means it is certain to happen, but when it comes to the government, nothing is certain except the pursuit of its own political interests. Canadians living with disabilities do not deserve to experience more uncertainty. They need our support to live full lives and participate fully in society, including in the workforce.

This was an urgent bill when it was first introduced three years ago. As Liberal spending fuelled the cost-of-living crisis, that urgency has only increased, yet for the Prime Minister, the most urgent matter was not passing the original legislation; it was calling his superspreader election.

After eight years of this corrupt Liberal government, Canadians living with disabilities are even worse off. Just as inflation has made it more expensive to live, the government is making it easier to die. We have heard testimony at committee of Canadians living with disabilities considering assisted suicide because the government spending is driving up inflation. It is only more chilling when the director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba said, I was rather proud that Canada has done so well in terms of organ donation by MAID patients.

Then we have the Minister of Justice claiming, Remember that suicide generally is available to people. This is a group within the population who, for physical reasons and possibly mental reasons, cant make that choice themselves to do it themselves.

When Canadians hear those quotes, they are right to think Canada is broken. We have a so-called ethicist celebrating organ harvesting, and a justice minister claiming a right to be killed through the help of the state. We have a Liberal government that will take seven years to pass one regulation to protect Canadians living with disabilities.

The urgency to pass legislation that delivers tangible benefits is real. Every minute the Liberals delay getting this money back into bank accounts puts lives at risk. The members across the aisle might roll their eyes, but 35% of Canadians who died by assisted suicide in 2021 felt they were a burden to their family, friends or caregivers.

The government was warned repeatedly of the danger that expanding assisted suicide posed, and the loudest warnings came from those living with disabilities. It is not because we live in a structurally ableist society. It is because the rhetoric from the government about helping Canadians living with disabilities never matches the money actually spent. What money we do provide will be clawed back the very minute they try to improve their financial situations, and that is why it is truly immiserating for Canadians living with disabilities. Structural impoverishment by government policy is a kind of hopelessness that drives people to commit suicide. It is a kind of despair that can only be fuelled by promises of benefits that never actually arrive. (1715)

We need to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who had reached that breaking point in late 2020. They are encouraged to hold on. They are told a benefit that will make a material improvement in their lives is on the way. They watch for any sign that relief is near. Their hope grows when they hear legislation is being introduced with all-party support. However, then there is the Prime Minister’s urgent superspreader election.

Mr. Chris Bittle (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.):

Madam Speaker, it was very interesting to listen to that speech on the bill we are debating, but most of the time was spent talking about the member’s own bill, which was passed some time ago. It was bizarre to make this about herself, but I guess that is an occupational hazard in this place.

As the member is talking down this piece of legislation, I wonder if she could explain why she voted for it at second reading. Is she going to vote for this bill going forward? If so, why?

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant:

Madam Speaker, that bill passed with all-party support and then the election happened, and people living with disabilities waited and heard that the government considers subsidies for television producers more important for Parliament to consider. Then the Liberals introduced their news media subsidy legislation, and we see that the Prime Minister considers money for bribing reporters more important than the disability benefit legislation. Finally, just so Canadians living with disabilities really understand where they rank among Liberal priorities, the government said harassing lawful firearms owners was more important than providing a disability benefit to those living with disabilities. (1720)

[Translation]

Ms. Louise Chabot (Thérèse-De Blainville, BQ):

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her speech.

Although I have a completely different point of view, there is one thing we agree on, and I would like to ask her a question. I, too, am a member of the committee that did an in-depth study of Bill C?22.

What seems to be unique about this bill is that the amount of the benefit and the eligibility criteria will be established by regulations, without any parliamentary oversight on what the benefit level will be. Will this amount truly complement what is being provided in Quebec and the provinces? Will it meet its objective of reducing poverty? We moved an amendment in that regard in committee proposing that the eligibility criteria and the amount of the benefit be studied in Parliament and a decision be made. The amendment was not successful.

What are my colleague’s thoughts on that? Would it have been a good idea?

[English]

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant:

Madam Speaker, just before Christmas, I started receiving phone calls on Bill C-22, with people asking me to please vote for Bill C-22. I thought I better look and make sure I know what I am calling them about. When I looked at the bill and started scrolling through it, I thought my iPad was frozen because there was nothing there. I looked at it and it said coming into force, but what was coming into force?

I can already hear the grumbling across the aisle. Those members will claim they care about Canadians living with disabilities, but how many of them were in the House eight years ago when we passed the Disability Tax Credit Promoters Restrictions Act unanimously? I know the member for Papineau was there. He, too, supported the legislation to help Canadians living with disabilities, but then when he became Prime Minister, it took seven years to pass one regulation. I pray that is not the case with the Canada disability benefit. Given the greasy slope this country seems to be on, we do not have another seven years to wait.

Mr. Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway, NDP):

Madam Speaker, I bring a bit of personal experience to this debate, as my youngest child lives with a disability. She is 27 years old, and we have been working with other parents in the disability community, so I know how important this disability benefit is.

I really share my colleague’s comment that it is cruel to continue to make promises to this community and not deliver. However, I was in the House from 2008 to 2015, when her government, the Conservatives, sat back while millions of people with disabilities did not receive a benefit like the one before the House today. Curiously, that is about the same amount of time it has taken the current Liberal government.

First, what amount of benefit does the member think is appropriate to support persons with disabilities? Second, we have a dental bill before the House that would bring dental care to millions of Canadians living with disabilities. Can she tell the House why she voted against it?

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant:

Madam Speaker, the first question was about what we as Conservatives did when we were in power. I remember that our dearly beloved Jim Flaherty, who had two sons living with disabilities, brought in a number of disability savings accounts because he knew there would be a time when he and his wife would not be there to care for them. He not only put together a bill but implemented a savings plan so that people, when grown, would be able to have a disability benefit. However, not all families are fortunate enough to have money to put away.

[Translation]

Ms. Louise Chabot (Thérèse-De Blainville, BQ):

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C?22, which seeks to establish a disability benefit.

I want to say from the outset that the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this bill. We will support it because we strongly believe that urgent action must be taken. Many people with disabilities and their advocacy groups, whom I have met with personally on several occasions, have stated unequivocally that the situation is serious for them.

If there is one thing we should remember, it is that people with disabilities have the right to be recognized, they are full-fledged members of our society and their rights and dignity should not be compromised because of their differences.

I am sorry that I did not think of it sooner, but I would like to ask for the unanimous consent of the House to share my time with our beautiful and beloved artist, the hon. member for BeauportCôte-de-BeaupréÎle d’OrléansCharlevoix. (1725)

[English]

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes):

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to share her time?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Translation]

Ms. Louise Chabot:

Madam Speaker, the Bloc believes that the government must ensure that every citizen has a decent social safety net. That safety net is currently torn and we have to fix it. We will support the bill, but allow me to share some of my reservations. These are the same reservations that I shared here in the House at second reading of this bill, as well as in the committee of which I am a member.

We are all concerned about the convoluted way in which the government went about this. We fear that the minister is taking absolutely all the power by deciding on every single detail of the benefit by regulation. We are concerned that parliamentarians are being called to vote on a bill that presents good intentions, that is a major step forward, but is nonetheless a blank page. We are especially concerned that the regulations are being developed without any transparency and that at the end of the day, the benefit will not satisfy the need, which, let us not forget, is to lift persons with disabilities out of poverty.

Yes, we will support the bill because there is an urgent need for action. People with disabilities are in a precarious position, and we need to help them. Do not forget that people with disabilities also face additional costs related to their disability, such as home adaptations, food delivery, and medication. Being disabled costs more. On top of that, there is the pandemic and inflation, which have further impoverished this segment of the population.

Here is an example from the Journal de Québec:

…Paul Awad, a 57-year-old man struggling to make ends meet and get the basic services he needs to live with dignity. The livable income in Sherbrooke, the city where he lives, is $26,299 per year. With his [income] of approximately $1,200 a month, he often has nothing left at the end of the month. I want to be free of the stress of having to choose between food and rent every month. I want to live a dignified life on my own terms, he says.

This benefit is of vital importance to him. Mr. Awad is one of many people with disabilities in the same situation.

That is why it is important to the Bloc Québécois to support creating this benefit. We believe the government’s job is to redistribute wealth to level the playing field by creating a proper social safety net. However, as I said earlier, we have concerns. For one thing, we do not know a thing about what the government actually plans to put in the benefit.

Let us not forget that, in June 2021, during the 43rd Parliament, the government passed Bill C?35, which was essentially an empty shell. One election later, the government was back at it with Bill C?22, which is an exact copy of its predecessor and another blank slate.
For example, we have no information about the eligibility criteria. There is very little information about the amounts. Who is eligible? The government is failing to provide a clear definition of who will qualify for the benefit. People with motor, sensory or mental disabilities? People with a debilitating disease or permanent or temporary disability? All types of disability? We have no idea.

As for eligibility criteria, we have no idea how people with disabilities are supposed to apply. Will the government set up the simple, efficient process that many groups have asked for? There are no details about this.

We also have no idea how the federal government plans to coordinate with the provinces. Even the officials who appeared before the committee had a hard time explaining how the provinces handle this. What we do know is that no two provinces do the same thing. There is clearly a lot of work to do on that.

(1730)

In her public statements and in committee, the minister has given a few hints about her intentions. For example, she said that the benefit would be similar to the guaranteed income supplement, that it would align with the provincial programs and that the process would be simple.

Those are fine words, but there is nothing in the bill to that effect. Basically, what she is telling us is to trust her and to vote for a blank page. That is a very worrisome and rather unheard of approach.

That brings me to another concern, which is the government’s lack of consistency. Because the creation of this benefit is so important, we believe that it should go through the proper legislative process.

However, the government decided to call all the shots by doing everything through regulation. It is justifying its decision by saying that this is an urgent matter, but the Prime Minister did not seem to think it was too urgent when he decided to trigger an election in 2021 and let former Bill C-35 die on the Order Paper. We could have easily passed this law a year sooner, as advocacy groups wanted us to do. The government’s argument does not hold water.

The right thing to do would have been to consult the groups, reorient the form and content of the bill, and submit it to parliamentarians. The other details could have been worked out later in the regulations. That is how the government would have proceeded if it had the least amount of respect for the work of parliamentarians.

Under the circumstances, in committee, I asked that the regulations, once drafted, at least be sent back to the House to be voted on. The governing party rejected my proposal. I think that is outrageous.

Under the circumstances, the Bloc Québécois will be on guard and closely monitor the development of this benefit. Certain things are non-negotiable. First, we are asking that the benefit meet the needs expressed by the advocacy groups. It will need to substantially improve the financial situation of persons with disabilities. We cannot accept a half measure that has no impact. We are also asking that during the development of its regulations, the government invite every relevant stakeholder to the table and that the process be open and transparent.
In committee, we received dozens of witnesses who all had important information to contribute to the debate. We need to listen to them. That is not to mention the hundreds of written submissions and briefs we were sent.

Let me share an example. As of January 2023, Quebec has introduced a basic income program, increasing the social assistance benefit for people with severe disabilities by 40%, as well as allowing for additional income.

Since there will be a virtually exemplary safety net, even if it is not perfect yet, how can we ensure that Quebec’s superior social safety net does not get dragged down by the new benefit? How can we ensure that no one loses out on the benefits they are entitled to with the guaranteed income supplement? That is our concern.

That said, I think the majority of groups have said this is an urgent matter. People with disabilities need this support. We encourage everyone to move quickly on this and, most importantly, we ask that parliamentarians be updated on the progress and reality of this work. (1735)

[English]

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, looking at the legislation we have before us, it is important to recognize that, whether today or during the pandemic, the government has recognized and supported our disability communities.

The minister and the parliamentary secretary made reference to the numbers and the impact it would have on millions of people. This is indeed progressive legislation, and it sets a framework to ensure that people with disabilities are provided with support.

Realizing that there is some ongoing work required to complete or complement the legislation, would the member not agree that this is a positive step forward? This is why we expect the legislation will pass, hopefully with support from all parties of the House.

[Translation]

Ms. Louise Chabot:

Mr. Speaker, I said at the outset that the Bloc Québécois would support this bill. Yes, it is imperative and it is a step forward that could have been taken much earlier.
Our concern with this bill has to do with ensuring that it achieves the objective of lifting people out of poverty and that it does so in a way that complements, but does not duplicate, what is being done in the provinces. We have a humble suggestion to make. The government wants to decide on a benefit amount without any guidance and without parliamentarians being informed. How can we ensure that elected members get to provide oversight? That is what we are asking for. One more step is needed in the process.

This is unheard of. I defy anyone to show me another bill that commits money and sets eligibility criteria for claimants without any parliamentary oversight. That is the problem.

[English]

Mrs. Tracy Gray (KelownaLake Country, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the member for her speech. We sit at committee together and have collaborated together in opposition.

She did touch on this, but I wonder if she could expand a little bit further her thoughts on the fact that any of these items, whether it is how much people will receive, who will receive it, what the process will be and whether there will be clawbacks, will be done at regulation stage.
The work we did at committee will not be happening any longer. All of that will be behind closed doors, and nothing will be coming back to Parliament or committee for oversight. What are her thoughts on that?

[Translation]

Ms. Louise Chabot:

Mr. Speaker, that is precisely the problem. In committee, we would have had that opportunity with the Bloc Québécois’s amendment. It did not address the regulations as a whole, but focused on three elements: the eligibility criteria, which is not insignificant; the conditions under which the benefit will be paid or will continue to be paid; and the amount of the benefit or the calculation method.

This will all be established by regulation. In committee, I gave an example that may have seemed absurd. The government could decide that the new additional benefit would be $5. We know that will not be the amount, however, given that the amount will be set by the regulations, there is no longer any control and these amounts and criteria could change. We find that to be unacceptable. We agree that the benefit must be made by and for persons with disabilities. However, ultimately, we must be able to ensure that the objectives are achieved. That is our job as parliamentarians. I invite the government to strengthen this objective in its bill.

(1740)

[English]

Ms. Bonita Zarrillo (Port MoodyCoquitlam, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, the member and I certainly share concerns about the emptiness of the bill. I really appreciated the member’s work at committee trying to get some of that oversight.

I wanted to ask the member about the risk of impacts on provincial benefits. Does the member have anything to share on what the risk could be of the loss of provincial benefits?

[Translation]

Ms. Louise Chabot:

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. I really enjoy working with her at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

I think we all have the same goal when it comes to Bill C?22, and that is to give it more teeth. Groups came to tell us how important it is to them to participate in this benefit. Yes, I think that the principle of us is there.

However, it is also important that we, as parliamentarians, become guardians of what the groups are looking for. There is an urgent need to act, and we could easily have combined the regulatory route with the parliamentary route.
When has the amount of the guaranteed income supplement for retirees ever been decided by regulation? Never.

Mrs. Caroline Desbiens (BeauportCôte-de-BeaupréÎle d’OrléansCharlevoix, BQ):

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging the invaluable and important work of my colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville. She cares a lot about the future of the people of Quebec and the entire community. She has done a tremendous amount of work on this committee. I think that all of our colleagues here and in committee have seen how competent she is. She has a lot of experience and has contributed a great deal to this committee, particularly during the study of Bill C?22. I want to sincerely thank her for that.

The Bloc Québécois will be voting in favour of Bill C?22, but we are not very optimistic about it, and understandably so. The bill is still a blank page that gives the Governor in Council the power to adopt any new regulations they deem proper. None of the amendments that were made change the fact that the benefit will be established solely by regulation. That is what we take issue with. Parliamentarians will have little or no control over the final product, despite the testimony, the opinions of advocacy groups and the time spent in committee. We are basically at square one. Of course, everyone agrees that we need to move as quickly as possible. However, it is not a good idea to move quickly just for the sake of doing so. We need to move quickly but still do things right.

We are once again seeing a great partnership between the NDP and the Liberals. That warms the heart, but it leaves us with mixed feelings about this approach, which is hasty and devoid of content.

Quebec having created its own social safety net that is the envy of many nations, it goes without saying that we support any effort to improve the lives of people with disabilities. However, it should be noted that the bill is still very short on details and could very likely be an intrusion into Quebec’s jurisdiction. Our desire to support persons with disabilities is what drives us to support the bill in principle, but we are left with many concerns.
Our hopes fade, however, when we see the legal void in the legislation. There are many requirements that need to be met, especially in Quebec. Many people do not identify as having a disability and do not claim the help provided to persons with disabilities. There are many reasons for that.

Some people go through life without ever having any health problems and then suddenly end up sick overnight. They do not know where to turn to get help or do not want any help. Some people do not know that their condition is recognized as a disability. Others find the process too complicated.

Tax credits are non-refundable and some people do not even have enough income to claim them. Then we have the terms handicap, or disability, and invalidity, which do not mean exactly the same thing. Among francophones, there is confusion about what constitutes a disability. People are confused.

In a single year, 193,000 people in Quebec received the disability tax credit compared to 1,380,000 in all of Canada. These figures may seem high, but the reality is that only 60% of Canadians claim this credit. In Quebec, only 2.2% of the population claim it, even though 16% of Quebeckers live with a disability and are eligible. The confusion is detrimental for Quebeckers.

The federal government plans to conduct consultations over three years to establish the terms and conditions for the benefits. For individuals living with a disability, the needs are immediate and such lengthy consultations are not necessary. What are they going to do during the three years that discussions are being held?

I would like to talk about my friend Daniel. Daniel has been disabled most of his life. An artist at heart, Daniel left his hometown of Sept-Îles for Montreal before the summer of 1994. He studied to be a drama teacher at UQAM and did theatre studies at the Conservatoire Lassalle. (1745)

Daniel had plans. In the summer of 1994, Daniel was in his early twenties when a tragic dive left him quadriplegic and put him in a wheelchair. It took a year of rehabilitation in Quebec City. He was not eligible for a disability pension because in the months before his accident he was a part-time student and worked part-time in a health care centre. Since he was partially self-employed, he had not contributed enough to qualify for a pension. As a result, he had to rely on social assistance for two years while he completed his rehabilitation.

Does everyone see how complex this can be? When someone is going through the worst experience of their life, these torments should not exist.

He then returned to Sept-Îles to regain some autonomy and return to his theatre projects. This was followed by years of volunteer work and involvement in schools in several regions, from Quebec City to Natashquan. He set up coaching workshops as a self-employed worker. He shares his skills with many artists in Quebec, including Simon Gauthier and Les contes de Petite souris. He founded the resto-bar Le Crapet-Soleil with his fabulous wife, Carol-Anne Pedneault. Over eight years, they presented more than 300 performances, including live music, theatre productions, improvisation and cultural events. He has an instinct for discovering emerging talent. Many such artists are now very successful because they first appeared on our friend Daniel’s stage.

I would like to point out that he was the brilliant director of a musical called La vie du Temps, of which I was the humble author. Thanks to his talent, skills and dedication, it has charmed the likes of Jean Besré, Gilles Pelletier, Paul Buissonneau, Louisette Dussault, Johanne Fontaine and numerous others who have praised his exceptional work. I say this because Daniel did this while in a wheelchair and with no income.

Despite three bouts of cancer and a stem cell transplant, Daniel always wanted to be independent, to work to support his family. In 2008, he founded Noé productions, gave lectures and published a first book.

These new creative realms led him to a year-long tour of western Canada, where he offered theatre workshops in French-immersion schools. With the success of his performances, he used his time out west to direct Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince, touring major cities in British Columbia.

Now more than ever, his health is a major issue and his survival a priority. He was richly rewarded. He and his partner brought a beautiful daughter into the world. Her name is Mika, and she is now 15 years old. She is living proof that Daniel’s disability did not put an end to his ability, his plans and his dream of having a family. Two years ago, he applied for a disability pension and, for the first time since his two years of rehab, he began to collect an income. That whole time, he got by without government help.

I wanted to share this because people with disabilities, whatever their disability, just want one thing. They want to live as authentically as possible in this world.
For people who lose their autonomy, a normal life is crucial. Daniel just made it through several weeks in intensive care, once again defying the gloomiest prognosis. He battled double pneumonia and resulting complications and prevailed. He dreams of wandering through the island forest and hopes to complete his writing projects, including a history of St. Lawrence schooners, an autobiographical novel, and a children’s series illustrated by his partner, Carol-Anne, also known as Carococo.

Even with his disability, in his working life, Daniel was able to achieve what many able-bodied people have not. Without specific, adapted support, he was unable to benefit from the financial support that would likely have taken his career even further. Let us give everyone the chance to shine no matter what their circumstances. (1750)

Bill C?22 does not really do anything tangible for people with disabilities. The Bloc Québécois thinks that is unfortunate and will continue to ensure, thanks to my colleague, that things are the best they can be given the circumstances.

[English]

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, one thing is important for us to recognize. The member made reference to it, and I believe it is really important: The types of disabilities vary, obviously, with a very wide spectrum, and we need to acknowledge that in every aspect of our society, people with disabilities contribute in every way. When we talk about supporting people with disabilities, we should not in any way whatsoever infer that they are not contributing in a very wholesome way to Canadian society. What we are talking about is ensuring there is a basic level of support coming from the national government for people with disabilities.

I remind members that we should recognize the immense contributions people with disabilities make. A disability does not mean they are not capable of doing anything that any of us would be capable of doing, in many ways.

[Translation]

Mrs. Caroline Desbiens:
Mr. Speaker, I want to say to my colleague that there are as many cases as there are people with disabilities. Every case is unique, and a flexible, adaptable law that is sensitive to the needs of individuals could help those individuals to grow in their own way and to get what they need to grow and to integrate into and succeed in society. Bill C?22 is not a law that will do that. We need to do better.

[English]

Mrs. Tracy Gray (KelownaLake Country, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned in her intervention the length of time the regulations are going to take. Here we are. We have legislation and it will go to the Senate, which will do its work, and then it will receive royal assent. We heard at committee that it will likely be at least a year before the regulations will be developed, so who knows how long it will be before benefits will actually get to people.

I am wondering if the member can expand a bit on the length of time these regulations are going to take to develop considering that the government has been in power for eight years, it had the same legislation in the previous Parliament and it sounds like it has not done much work to put regulations together.

(1755)

[Translation]

Mrs. Caroline Desbiens:

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

I think that, during that year, people with disabilities will have to do what Daniel did, and that is to seek helpfinancial, moral and physical supportfrom their family, friends and loved ones so that they can keep going until they are finally told yes and the government produces comprehensive legislation that can respond to every situation, no matter how unique.

Let us hope that the people with disabilities in our society have a lot of support because, under the circumstances, they will not be getting any help from the government in the coming year.

Ms. Laurel Collins (Victoria, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her speech. I share her concerns.
Can she elaborate on why it is so worrisome that this bill lacks details on how much the benefit will be, who is eligible and when they will start receiving it?

Mrs. Caroline Desbiens:

Mr. Speaker, I can answer my colleague’s question with just a few words: lack of security, lack of predictability.

This has a profound impact on the strength that these people already need to summon. The most important thing, the thing we should make a priority for persons with disabilities, is to ensure that they have food security and the basic comforts so they can express themselves, get involved and fulfill their true potential in modern society. We live in a modern society. We are not living in the Middle Ages.

I think this is necessary and urgent, as my colleague was saying, and we absolutely must flesh out this bill with adaptable criteria.

[English]

Ms. Bonita Zarrillo (Port MoodyCoquitlam, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to share my time with the member for NanaimoLadysmith.

The Deputy Speaker:

Is that agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Ms. Bonita Zarrillo:

Mr. Speaker, I will start by thanking every disability organization, individual and ally for keeping up the pressure on the Liberal government to get Bill C-22 here today. Their work is invaluable and their ongoing collaboration in making regulations is key.

Let us take a minute to reflect on the process that has brought us to today.

In 2019, the Liberal platform included a promise for the Canada disability benefit. The government has been elected with a minority government twice over the past three-plus years, 1,200 days ago, yet there is still no Canada disability benefit. The Liberal government, 589 days ago, tabled the first iteration of the Canada disability benefit act, Bill C-35, and then called an unnecessary election, cancelling this legislation. After 232 days, the Liberals had still not tabled a bill for the Canada disability benefit in this session of Parliament, so the NDP used its power to force the Liberals to act.

On May 10, 2022, the NDP brought a unanimous consent motion for the Liberal government to introduce, without delay, a Canada disability benefit act to get this important legislation moving. It was only under that pressure that this bill finally came to the table.

The NDP is ready to move forward with this bill, even though it contains very few details, as many of my colleagues have stated, details like who will get this benefit, how much the benefit will be and when people living with a disability will start receiving it.
In the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, we studied Bill C-22, and there were frustrations around the lack of details expressed. Throughout the study, witnesses informed us that because the need for income support was so acute, they wanted this bill to get into law and wanted us to work on the details later.

The message was so clear: Income support is needed now. Too many persons with disabilities are living in poverty, and with skyrocketing costs of living, persons with disabilities are making impossible choices between food, medication, housing, transportation and more. The difficult conditions are even leading some to consider MAID.

That is why today, even with the lack of details in this bill, the NDP supports moving it forward quickly so that the Liberals can finally live up to their promise of realizing the needed Canada disability benefit and relieve unnecessary suffering, if they would just bring the supports forward.

One of the details the committee received from ESDC was a comparison between the highest poverty line per province and the standard amount of provincial disability supports. Not a single province provides income supports to persons with disabilities that are even close to the poverty line. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick show the highest gaps, at more than $12,000 a year, while two of the most affluent provinces, Ontario and B.C., have gaps of nearly $10,000 a year. Across Canada, the average annual gap for income support for person with disabilities is nearly $9,000 in comparison to the poverty line.

These numbers were from 2020, and the gaps are surely higher now with inflation. Those gaps do not even include the additional costs of living with a disability in this ableist country. This is unacceptable.

Canada has an obligation to uphold the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure dignity and full equality for all. Under this convention, we must adhere to article 28, which declares an adequate standard of living and social protection for persons with disabilities. That, along with other international and national obligations, is not being met in Canada. The government has other binding obligations, including the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to ensure that persons with disabilities have an adequate standard of living. The Liberal government must live up to these commitments.

As human rights lawyer Vince Calderhead said during HUMA testimony on Bill C-22:

…the government could very quickly ensure that its human rights obligations are met in a way that is not compromising and that meets those obligations.
No one should have to compromise with trade-offs to their human rights entitlements in order to ensure quick passage of the bill.

However, that is exactly what we are doing here.
(1800)

With the Liberals’ 1,200 days of delay and the declining standard of living for the almost one million Canadians with disabilities living in poverty in this country, the House feels the critical urgency to fast-track this empty bill, on the hope that the Liberals will collaborate with the disability community and do the right thing to ensure this new Canada disability benefit would be adequate and would ensure that no person with disabilities lives in poverty. The Liberals must do better.

Members can imagine closing that gap between provincial and territorial supports and the official poverty line and what a difference that would make for persons with disabilities. We can also consider the need to supplement that poverty line to truly accommodate the cost of a disability in this country, including accessibility aids, medication costs and transportation. The list goes on.

The NDP fought to get adequacy enshrined in legislation here, but the Liberals would not support it for consideration at committee. That is a real red flag, and it gives me great concern that the Liberals will not provide an adequate benefit.

For some protection, the NDP introduced an amendment in regulations that outlined a minimum benefit amount and that the benefit must consider the official poverty line. The NDP expects the benefit to be even greater than that. The NDP has also achieved some other transparency amendments in the process of developing the bill’s regulations at committee. The minister would now be required to table in the House a progress report, within six months of royal assent, on the engagement and collaboration with the disability community in relation to the development of future regulations. The NDP was also able to reflect the urgency of this benefit, ensuring it would come into force no later than the first anniversary of the day on which it receives royal assent.

During the HUMA committee’s study on Bill C-22, we heard testimony from the Québec Intellectual Disability Society that it had taken four years to develop the regulations and framework for Quebec’s new income project. This cannot happen with the disability benefit, so protections are now in place to limit the time the government can spend making these regulations.

However, even with those amendments out of committee, Bill C-22 would still rely on regulations to determine who would get the benefit, how much it would be and when they would get it. The Liberals have delivered just a framework that leaves those key decisions to be finalized behind the closed doors of cabinet.

Let me reiterate for the cabinet that persons with disabilities living in poverty in this country are relying on this new income support, and they need more than a framework to pay their bills. In good faith, the disability community believes in the Liberal promise of Nothing Without Us from the preamble of this bill. Do not disappoint them. Do not deny them their human rights. Canadians have heard a lot of promises from this minister and his government. This needs to be more than a promise.

I will close by saying that the NDP supports fast-tracking this framework and looks forward to its quick movement through the Senate. We expect the government to show a commitment to the urgency and an investment of significant funds in the upcoming budget for the Canada disability benefit.

To really solidify the House’s commitment on the urgency of this bill, because we have heard it today in this House, if you seek it, Mr. Speaker, you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House, later today, at the conclusion of the time provided for Government Orders or when no member rises to speak, whichever is earlier, all questions necessary for the disposal of the third reading stage of Bill C-22, an act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada disability benefit and making a consequential amendment to the Income Tax Act, shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

(1805)

The Deputy Speaker:

All those opposed to the hon. member’s moving the motion will please say nay. Hearing no dissenting voice, it is agreed.

The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

(Motion agreed to)

Mr. Mike Morrice (Kitchener Centre, GP):

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member for Port MoodyCoquitlam’s powerful speech and her strong support of strengthening Bill C-22 throughout the committee process.
My question is similar to a question I asked of a Conservative member earlier. As the member has also shared many times, it is not good enough to move this legislation ahead. The governing party needs to fund the Canada disability benefit. Could the member speak more to the ways that she and the rest of her party will continue to put pressure on the governing party to fund the Canada disability benefit?

Ms. Bonita Zarrillo:

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for all the work he has done on this bill since Parliament began to sit. This is a key area of the budget.
The NDP has been talking for a long time about supports for persons with disabilities, and not just on Bill C-22. It was because of the NDP that there were supports for persons with disabilities with CERB, so I can say NDP members have always been strong advocates for persons with disabilities, all the way back to Jack Layton. We will be pushing, like we have been for decades.

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize that genuine supports would be going out. We saw it during the pandemic, where the government came forward with one-time payments for people with disabilities. This legislation demonstrates a clear commitment to continue to provide supports.

One of the issues raised when we talk about federal supports going to people with disabilities is the issue of the potential threat of clawbacks at different levels of government. I am wondering if the member could provide her thoughts on ideas for potential safeguards or on issues related to the potential of other types of clawbacks from other jurisdictions taking place. Is there anything she would like to say on that particular point?

Ms. Bonita Zarrillo:

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives and the Liberals have been in government for decades. I would expect there is a clear framework of how the provincial government works with a federal government.

As a woman standing in the House of Commons, I would like to say that I would hope there will be much more information than what was shared at committee around gender equity in regard to this bill. I am very concerned the women in those households are going to have disproportionate negative impacts if the government does not get this right.

(1810)

Mrs. Tracy Gray (KelownaLake Country, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, the member and I sit on the HUMA committee together, and we have worked together in opposition to attempt to make parts of this bill better, even though it is still determined that almost everything will come out during regulations.

My question to the member is regarding the timeline after this bill potentially passes and receives royal assent. When we were at committee, in the questioning of the minister, she was asked to lay out the timeline, what the process would be for regulations, how long that would take and when people would eventually be receiving benefits.

I am wondering if the member could comment on the timeline and if she was surprised to hear at committee that it was going to take that long, considering a lot of the communication from the government on this made it sound like, once this bill was passed, people would be receiving some type of benefit very soon.

Ms. Bonita Zarrillo:

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciated working with the member at committee.
I am concerned about timelines, and I am really concerned about not having good collaborative consultation with those in the disability community, who have said that they want to outline these guidelines. They want to be fully involved in the regulation, which is one of the reasons we respected, as a committee, limiting the amount of amendments we would bring in on that area of regulation.

I am really concerned. I am even concerned they might not meet the timelines outlined in this bill, so we need to work hard as opposition parties to really hold their feet to the fire on this one.

[Translation]

Mr. Luc Thériault (Montcalm, BQ):

Mr. Speaker, the government seems to feel that, because this is a noble cause, since it is about respecting the dignity of people living with disabilities, it can table a sloppy, amateurish bill, as we very often see with bills.

How does my colleague explain the fact that we do not know the criteria, the conditions, the amounts or the method of calculation? We are at third reading, but when I listen to the debates, I feel like we are only at the stage of debating the bill’s principle. We are handing over a blank cheque, because the government is exploiting the vulnerability of certain people to justify its lax approach, as happens so often in the House.

[English]

Ms. Bonita Zarrillo:

Mr. Speaker, the very strong voice of the disability community and its allies, with respect to wanting to be involved in the making of regulations, is a great way forward. I am really hoping that we can get this bill to the Senate as soon as possible.

Ms. Lisa Marie Barron (NanaimoLadysmith, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak once again to this very important Bill C-22 around establishing the Canada disability benefit at third reading.

I would be remiss to not first take a moment to acknowledge the continuous work of my NDP colleague, the MP for Port MoodyCoquitlam, as well as so many in the disability community for their dedication to bringing the voices of those living with disabilities forward. Most of all, I want to acknowledge and thank all those living with disabilities for their endless perseverance to demand better.

I am in awe daily of the bravery shown by so many living with disabilities to share their stories and to push for their basic human rights, not only for today but also for generations to come. It is clear we need the government to act now and to implement this much overdue benefit.
While I am happy to be here today at third reading, I am beyond disheartened that people with disabilities still do not have the support they so desperately need and deserve. I feel it is worth reiterating that the supports those living with disabilities are asking for are those to meet the most basic needs, such as food on the table, a place to call home and heat to keep warm through the winter.

I would like to pose the question to all members of Parliament in the House, which is how long is too long to wait for supports to meet basic needs? How long is too long to go hungry? How long is too long to go without a home? I am sure all those in the House can appreciate that even one day going hungry, without a safe place to sleep at night, without heat to keep warm is too long.

We live in Canada, a country that prides itself on taking care of one another, yet the government continues to delay vital and life-saving supports for those living with disabilities. It has been seven years, to be exact, of delays. The Liberals have been in power for seven years and have taken no concrete action to date to lift people with disabilities out of poverty. My hope is that today this sad history will change.

I have said it in the House before and I will say it again that some of the strongest people I know are living with disabilities, exhibiting incredible strength despite being kicked down over and over again. People with disabilities are contributing members of our communities, like I have also heard in the House today, with their own unique stories, talents and skills. People living with disabilities have loved ones and hobbies and goals they are working on, just like all of us.

We know that more than 5.3 million Canadians live with disabilities, and of those 5.3 million, one million live in poverty. One million. Disability Without Poverty, a Canadian grassroots disability-led movement, stated that We have a crisis of poverty in this country. Over 41% of people impacted are people with disabilities. This cannot be ignored anymore in a country like ours.

Constituents in my riding of NanaimoLadysmith and across the country who are living with disabilities are reaching out, pleading for support. Will the government listen and ensure that those living with disabilities get the supports in place today? There is no more time to wait. Without action, we will continue to see people living with disabilities being legislated into poverty. This is a fact. For example, for someone living with a disability who is unable to work as a result, the support they receive at a time when they need it most does not provide the minimal supports required to make ends meet. It is shameful.
The words of Catherine, who is living with a disability, really summarize the experiences I have been hearing from so many, both on Vancouver Island at home, and across Canada. Her words are, It has been truly dehumanizing living in Canada as a Disabled individual. I’d never wish my disease on anyone. The chronic pain and suffering that comes with my disease is awful enough on its own. But to then suffer extreme poverty adds a new level to the suffering for people with disabilities. Our basic needs are not met and yet we are told to be grateful for the pocket change we are forced to live off of.

She goes on to say, Bill C-22 has a mission to pass an act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada disability benefit and making a consequential amendment to the Income Tax Act. I hope this bill properly serves my community and saves lives. Please provide the help my community has been begging for. This issue is life and death. I hope it is rolled out urgently and with care.

(1815)

So many like Catherine are asking for supports to be implemented now for those who need them most and for us to ensure that the voices of those who are living with disabilities are part of the entire decision-making process from beginning to end.

Who better to identify the needs and challenges of those living with disabilities than those living with disabilities? How many times does the government need to repeat the cycle of a top-down approach before realizing that this does not work for anybody?
The Accessible Canada Act specifically recognizes the importance for those living with disabilities to be involved in the development and design of laws, policies, programs, services and structures in the spirit of nothing without us. Nothing without us means more than
checking a box saying that consultation to the most superficial degree has been completed; it means having those with lived experience as an integral part of the development, design and implementation of these supports.

The current minimal disability supports have been further eroded by the affordability crisis and growing inflation, leading to increasingly dire situations every day for those living with disabilities and their families. I have spoken before about Jocelyn, a constituent in my riding of NanaimoLadysmith. Her story and experience are similar to those of far too many people living with disabilities whom I speak with day after day.

Jocelyn is a single parent of two young children who holds an education, work experience and a drive to contribute and give back to her community. Unfortunately, Jocelyn was in multiple accidents, leaving her unable to work and reliant on the minimal disability income provided to make ends meet. She described to me the challenges she experiences in covering just the basic costs of living. Jocelyn was very clear that all she was hoping for was the certainty that her children would have food on the table and a place to call home. Housing and food are certainly not luxuries for her and her children. These are basic human rights.
Legislating Jocelyn into poverty also means legislating her children into poverty. Despite her perseverance and incredible resiliency, she is set up for failure. At a time when her children need the best start to life, Jocelyn is struggling to provide the basics for them. It is clear that without the leadership required by the Liberal government, the impacts on those living with disabilities will continue to be felt for generations to come.

Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, also shared with us her concerns about barriers to accessing necessary supports for those living with disabilities. Bea said:
From barriers to employment to affordable housing to access to care, so many people living with disabilities face unacceptable barriers to economic security…. With rising costs making life even harder, we must make sure the bill is well designed and is a meaningful addition to existing federal, provincial and territorial supports, so help gets to those who need it…. People living with disabilities deserve to live in dignity.

Let me be clear. This is not the bill an NDP government would have put forward. As of today, we are looking at an empty bill without the specificity required to see real change. However, it is not too late for the government to make these changes. There is still time for the government, with the support of all members in the House, to move forward with a bill that provides an income that pulls individuals living with disabilities, at minimum, out of poverty. It can create a bill that clearly articulates who is eligible for the supports, what the benefit amount will be and when such supports will be made available and placed in the bank accounts of those with most need.

An issue compounding the struggles to make ends meet experienced by those living with disabilities is not knowing if there is any hope in sight. It is devastating to hear many people living with disabilities sharing that they are hopeless and that the only option left for them is to consider medical assistance in dying. When choosing to die is easier than trying to live, we know there is a deep-rooted problem with the decisions being made.

It is time for the Liberal government to step up to provide hope and move forward with a bill that contains the substance required to ensure those living with disabilities can live with dignity and respect. The first step is moving Bill C-22 forward to the Senate.

(1820)

Mr. Mark Gerretsen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate), Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the last comment my colleague from the NDP made. It is time for this to pass, and I am glad to hear that a unanimous consent motion was adopted a few moments ago with regard to that. I know the NDP has been particularly critical in terms of the specifics within the bill, but when we look at it, a bill of this nature really needs to have consultation with the stakeholders. One thing we do know is that the individuals who are going to be most affected by this want to and have to have a say in the various different supports that are there for them.

I realize there is a push to get this passed as quickly as possible to have those supports in people’s hands. However, would she not agree that it is important to have that genuine feedback come through the proper framework development process in order to get it right?

Ms. Lisa Marie Barron:

Mr. Speaker, yes, it is important that we talk about the specificity of the bill. I have a couple of thoughts on that: First, the Liberals have been in power for seven years. There has been a lot of time in which the consultation could have been done. Absolutely, people who are living with disabilities need to be involved in this process right from the very beginning to the very end. Who knows best but those living with disabilities?

We also need to recognize that it is time to move forward with action. Rabia Khedr, the CEO of DEEN Support Services and national director of Disability Without Poverty stated her position that people with disabilities need money now. They are sick and tired of being consulted. The government should know the problem by now and it is time to deliver.
Those are not my words. This is what we are hearing from those in the community, and they are saying that they need these supports now. That is coming from them, so it is time for us to listen.

(1825)

Mrs. Tracy Gray (KelownaLake Country, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, one of the comments the member made was that this is not the bill that the NDP would have put through, yet they have a confidence and supply agreement with the Liberals. If this is really important to them, why was it not negotiated in that agreement? There might have been a different bill than what we see here today.

Ms. Lisa Marie Barron:

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is here to get things put in place for people. That is exactly what we are doing. With this agreement, we were able to get tremendous outcomes for people who need dental care and the doubling of the GST. Those are just two examples. No, we were not able to get everything we wanted in there. That is why we continue to persevere and push for the Liberal government to implement the items that are so desperately needed in our communities, such as the disability benefit that we are debating today
This is vitally important. The NDP has been fighting for generations for the supports that people with disabilities need and deserve. We will keep doing that until we see those who are living with disabilities living with dignity and respect.

[Translation]

Mrs. Caroline Desbiens (BeauportCôte-de-BeaupréÎle d’OrléansCharlevoix, BQ):

Mr. Speaker, I salute my colleague, whom I spend a lot of time with at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. We have a great rapport and usually see eye to eye.

For the most part, I agree with her that we need to move forward and find solutions. I understand my colleague’s position, but is she not worried about the end product? Is she not worried that all this haste could lead to slipshod results?

Yes, from a political standpoint, we will be happy. Outwardly, we will say that we are glad that there is finally a law, that it has been a long time coming and that we are pleased. We will give ourselves a round of applause. However, at the end of the day, in real life, people with disabilities will not find much to reassure them that they will really get tangible, concrete and timely support.

[English]

Ms. Lisa Marie Barron:

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely appreciated working closely with my colleague on the fisheries committee.

People in the disability community are asking for this to be put ahead, for it to go to Senate and pass royal assent. Then we can do the work of having those living with disabilities as part of the process. This will ensure that the specificity is included so that we know when this is coming. There are a lot of details that need to happen to ensure that those with disabilities can have the hope they so desperately need to plan and move forward, knowing the supports they need are on the way.

The Deputy Speaker:

It being 6:30 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the bill now before the House.

[Translation]

The question is on the motion.
[English]

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes that the motion be carried, carried on division or wishes to request a recorded division, I invite them to now rise and indicate it to the Chair.

The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader. (1830)

Mr. Mark Gerretsen:

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for a recorded division.

The Deputy Speaker:

Pursuant to an order made on Thursday, June 23, the division stands deferred until Thursday, February 2, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Anniversary of Inaction – Ford Government Has Still Announced Nothing to Tear Down Barriers Hurting One Third of a Million Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools, 1 Year After Receiving a Landmark Report Calling for Reform

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

January 28, 2023

SUMMARY

Today is a disturbing anniversary of Ford Government inaction when it comes to giving some of Ontario’s most vulnerable students a fair chance. One year ago today, the Ford Government received a comprehensive report revealing the many disability barriers that permeate Ontario’s publicly-funded schools, that hurt at least a third of a million students with disabilities. These barriers impede these students from fully participating, being fully included in, and fully benefitting from all that our school system has to offer.

That report was prepared by the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, mandated under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. As Ontario’s late former Lieutenant Governor lies in state this weekend, it is important to reflect on his call, four years ago this Thursday, for the Ontario Government to speed up action to tear down the many barriers that impede hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities.

On a related note, 42 years ago today was the most important single event to protect the constitutional equality rights of millions of people with disabilities in Canada’s first 114 years. On January 28, 1981, the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada voted to add equality rights for people with disabilities to the proposed Charter of Rights. Disability advocates fought for and won this new right in Canada’s Constitution. Forty-two years later, the failure of effective Ontario Government action flies in the face of the constitutional right of students with disabilities to an equal education.

MORE DETAILS

1. Leaving Students with Disabilities Behind A Full Year of Inaction Since the Ford Government Received the Final Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee

Delivered on January 28, 2022, the final report of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee gave the Ford Government and Ontario’s 72 school boards a practical roadmap for how to remove those barriers, and to prevent new ones from being created in the future. Yet one year later, the Ford Government has announced no plan of action to implement this report. When asked its plans, the Government just repeats that it is studying this report.

Since 2009, the AODA Alliance has tried to play a leadership role in trying to get the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective AODA Education Accessibility Standard, under the AODA, to tear down the many barriers in Ontario schools that impede too many students with disabilities from the full education that is their right. Starting in 2009, we tried to get successive premiers to agree to develop an AODA Education Accessibility Standard. After six years of advocacy, Premier Kathleen Wynne finally agreed in December 2016 to create an Education Accessibility Standard.

Eight years later, Ontario still has no such regulation. Old barriers remain. New ones are being created with public money.

In opposition, the Ontario PC Party supported our cause. It pressed the previous Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard, and thereafter, to speed up its sluggish efforts towards creating one. Since the PCs took power in June 2018, they have shown far less enthusiasm for this.

Among the many barriers in Ontario’s schools and school boards, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee report found:

* Many school buildings are not physically accessible, impeding students, teachers, staff and parents with physical disabilities.

* Digital learning technology used in schools too often lacks digital accessibility to ensure that students with disabilities can fully use and benefit from these learning tools.

* The school system does not do an effective job of letting parents of students with disabilities know what programs, services and supports are available for their children and how to access them.

* The education system is replete with rigid bureaucratic and administrative barriers that make it harder for schools to meet the needs of students with disabilities, and create roadblocks for parents trying to advocate for the needs of their children in school.

* Teachers and other educational staff have not been sufficiently trained, if at all, in how to effectively teach all learners, including students with disabilities.

* The Ontario Government’s one-size-fits-all response to the COVID-19 pandemic left out or marginalized the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities, and led to the creation of more disability barriers impeding students with disabilities at a time when they could least cope with this.

A first for Ontario, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s final report is by far the most thorough, top-to-bottom review of Ontario’s K-12 education system from the perspective of students with disabilities in decades. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s final report is supported by a very strong consensus from disability and educator perspectives. Half of the members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee were representatives from Ontario’s disability sector, including AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other half was made up of representatives from Ontario’s school system. They reached a strong agreement on the final report and its roadmap for reform. Reaching this consensus is a major accomplishment.

The public needs the Ford Government to end its delays. Substantial public feedback on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report was gathered during the summer of 2021. It showed that there was a strong consensus in support from the disability community and from educators. They confirmed the existence of the barriers that the Committee had identified and the pressing need for comprehensive reform. It strongly supported the Standards Development Committees roadmap for reform.

We will continue to press the Ford Government to end its foot-dragging, and show leadership on the right of all students with disabilities to a full and equal education.

2. More Background on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Unfair barriers Facing Students with Disabilities

Check out:

* The AODA Alliance’s October 10, 2019 Framework for what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include.

* The final report and recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, which the Ontario Government publicly posted on March 1, 2022.

* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s captioned video describing the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee final report.

* David Lepofsky’s captioned video presentation providing tips for parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate for their child’s needs at school.

* The AODA Alliance website’s education page.

3. More background On the Disability Amendment to the Charter of Rights Passed 42 Years Ago Today

To learn more about this historic event, check out:

1. Transcript of the three disability organizations’ presentations in the 1980 fall to the Joint Committee calling for the Charter disability amendment.

2. Captioned video of the December 12, 1980 presentation by David Lepofsky to the Joint Committee, on behalf of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He is now chair of the AODA Alliance.

3. Transcript of the initial refusal on January 12, 1981 by federal Justice Minister Jean Chretien to agree to the disability amendment, which he announced during his appearance before the Joint committee a decision the Federal Government reversed forty years ago today.

4. Online captioned lecture at the Osgoode Hall Law School by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the history of the campaign for the Charter disability amendment.

David Onley’s Enduring Legacy Includes His Strong 2019 Call at the Senate for Enforced Timelines in Accessibility Standards and an End Date as the Only True Way to Ensure that Our society Becomes Accessible to People with Disabilities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

February 1, 2023

SUMMARY

An important part of the late David Onley’s enduring legacy is his May 1, 2019 statement to the Senate of Canada’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs. He called for Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, to be strengthened. In what we believe may have been his last appearance before that August body, David Onley summarized the culmination of his life-long journey, advocating for accessibility for people with disabilities.

David Onley told the Senate that earlier in his life, he had thought that moral suasion and good will would bring about the changes that people with disabilities need. However he ultimately learned that moral suasion and good will are not enough. We need more. We need enforced, mandatory accessibility standards with timelines and an end date.

Below you can read his statement to the Senate and his answers to the Senators’ questions. He appeared on a panel with three other presenters. You can read the entire presentations of all four presenters by visiting the Senate’s official May 1, 2019 transcript. His statement, delivered four months after delivering his scathing report to the Ontario Government about its poor implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, included this candid self-assessment of his journey:

“The Canadian Survey on Disability echoes what other surveys have concluded: Almost 20 per cent of Canadians, over 6 million people, have one or more disabilities that limit them in their daily activities. Moreover, people with disabilities form our single largest minority group. It is the only minority group that others can join, and do join, not by choice but by accident, disease or, in many cases, simply as a result of getting older.

These are some significant percentages, but the most significant statistic is this: When the immediate family members of Canadians with disabilities are included, it means that over 53 per cent of all Canadians are directly affected by disability. That means that right now the majority of Canadians are affected by disability in some way, either personally or through an immediate family member.

This is a very significant finding. The reason I think it’s important is because it tells us, given the fact that a significant percentage of incidents and we don’t know the exact number is related to one of the unfortunate by-products of aging. That is a decrease in mobility and a decrease in accessibility or functionality to get around. We can say with some degree of real confidence that a higher percentage of Canadians are going to experience disability and, through family members, have it affect them in their day to day life.

The reason I start by mentioning this is that I know you have had comments from other presenters on the importance of setting dates for objectives insofar as achieving standards are concerned, achieving goals related to accessibility. I agree with this wholeheartedly, and I must say it’s something that has taken me a while to get to, especially during the implementation of the AODA. I was part of the discussions at the very beginning in 2005 and the first chair of the minister’s advisory committee on the implementation of the act. I, along with most of the members of the first advisory committee, felt that moral suasion and goodwill would be sufficient to achieve the objectives.

The first review of the act done in 2010 by former MPP Charles Beer reached an opposite conclusion, as did the second review by the former Dean of the University Toronto law school, Mayo Moran. When I began my review in February 2018 I took that into account, but I was still fairly convinced that moral suasion and good economic arguments, of which there are many, would be sufficient to convince companies and individuals that achieving full accessibility was a reasonable objective and something that we should set our minds to very quickly.

Having listened, as I mentioned, to hundreds of people from across the province and taken submissions via email and in person, my views changed. I now believe quite firmly that the only way we’re going to achieve true and full accessibility is for the various standards and objectives to have a definable date in place and a government that is willing to enforce the implementation of these measures.

Had we had that set up in the AODA in 2005, I think we would be in a far different situation than we are right now. The original objective of the act was to make Ontario fully accessible by the year 2025. At the beginning, I remember thinking very clearly that this would be achievable within seven years, maybe 10 at the outside. But as my hearings went on and as I looked at the previous reviews and listened to people’s real-life stories of the barriers they were facing and the dispiriting situations that they found themselves in, I’ve come to reach a completely different conclusion.

I know there is a strong difference of opinion on this, but I would simply put it to you that as you look at other endeavours by government, whether they are matters related to climate change or the environment, or whether you’re dealing with students as I do at the University of Toronto in political science, you have to have a date, a deadline and a clear objective in mind. If you don’t, it just becomes an endless process.”

David Onley’s enduring message comes from this statement, combined with:

* The final report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review that he delivered to the Ford Government four years ago yesterday, and

* The powerful guest column in the September 15, 2020 Toronto Star that was co-authored by David Onley, together with Charles Beer and Mayo Moran, the authors of the three AODA Independent Reviews conducted to date.

The AODA Alliance is dedicating its forthcoming brief to the 4th AODA Independent Review, now being conducted by Rich Donovan, to David Onley. We welcome your feedback on our posted draft of that brief, by February 5, 2023. Email your feedback to aodafeedback@gmail.com

In the statement set out below, David Onley urged the Senate to amend the proposed Accessible Canada Act to set the deadline of 2040 for Canada to become accessible. The AODA Alliance and others had been advocating for that deadline. In the House of Commons, the Trudeau Liberals had earlier opposed setting any such deadline.

David Onley appeared at the final hour of public hearings in the Senate on Bill C-81. His endorsement of our shared goal helped convince the Senators to amend that Bill to add that very deadline of 2040. When the bill went back to the House of Commons, the hitherto reluctant Trudeau Liberals voted to accept this amendment. We appreciate David Onley helping us all get over that important finish line. You can read all about the battle to get the Accessible Canada Act strengthened on the AODA Alliance website’s Canada page.

The Ford Government received the final report of David Onley’s 3rd AODA Independent Review 1,462 days ago. The best way to honour David Onley legacy is for the Government to at last implement his roadmap for reform.

MORE DETAILS

Senate of Canada Hansard May 1, 2019

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/Content/Sen/Committee/421/SOCI/58EV-54737-E

STANDING COMMITTEE
Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue No. 58 – Evidence – May 1, 2019
OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, to which was referred Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, met this day at 4:24 p.m. to give consideration to the Bill.

Excerpt 1

Hon. David Onley, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, as an individual: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity to speak to you about Bill C-81.

Over the past year, I conducted the third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, known locally in Ontario as the AODA. After hearing from hundreds of people all across Ontario, our review was submitted to the provincial government on January 31.

I believe my experience in that capacity and that arising from my seven years as Ontario’s first Lieutenant Governor with a physical disability enables me to share some insights which I hope will enhance and improve your deliberations for the Accessible Canada Act.

When I began as Lieutenant Governor in 2007, I adopted accessibility as the overarching theme of my term of office. I’ve defined accessibility as “that which enables people to achieve their full potential.”

I came up with that definition because I wanted people to see that accessibility is much more than what we think of when we just hear the term, things such as curb cuts, ramps, wheelchair parking spots and automatic doors. Accessibility is much more than just the ubiquitous blue wheelchair sign.

The Canadian Survey on Disability echoes what other surveys have concluded: Almost 20 per cent of Canadians, over 6 million people, have one or more disabilities that limit them in their daily activities. Moreover, people with disabilities form our single largest minority group. It is the only minority group that others can join, and do join, not by choice but by accident, disease or, in many cases, simply as a result of getting older.

These are some significant percentages, but the most significant statistic is this: When the immediate family members of Canadians with disabilities are included, it means that over 53 per cent of all Canadians are directly affected by disability. That means that right now the majority of Canadians are affected by disability in some way, either personally or through an immediate family member.

This is a very significant finding. The reason I think it’s important is because it tells us, given the fact that a significant percentage of incidents and we don’t know the exact number is related to one of the unfortunate by-products of aging. That is a decrease in mobility and a decrease in accessibility or functionality to get around. We can say with some degree of real confidence that a higher percentage of Canadians are going to experience disability and, through family members, have it affect them in their day to day life.

The reason I start by mentioning this is that I know you have had comments from other presenters on the importance of setting dates for objectives insofar as achieving standards are concerned, achieving goals related to accessibility. I agree with this wholeheartedly, and I must say it’s something that has taken me a while to get to, especially during the implementation of the AODA. I was part of the discussions at the very beginning in 2005 and the first chair of the minister’s advisory committee on the implementation of the act. I, along with most of the members of the first advisory committee, felt that moral suasion and goodwill would be sufficient to achieve the objectives.

The first review of the act done in 2010 by former MPP Charles Beer reached an opposite conclusion, as did the second review by the former Dean of the University Toronto law school, Mayo Moran. When I began my review in February 2018 I took that into account, but I was still fairly convinced that moral suasion and good economic arguments, of which there are many, would be sufficient to convince companies and individuals that achieving full accessibility was a reasonable objective and something that we should set our minds to very quickly.

Having listened, as I mentioned, to hundreds of people from across the province and taken submissions via email and in person, my views changed. I now believe quite firmly that the only way we’re going to achieve true and full accessibility is for the various standards and objectives to have a definable date in place and a government that is willing to enforce the implementation of these measures.

Had we had that set up in the AODA in 2005, I think we would be in a far different situation than we are right now. The original objective of the act was to make Ontario fully accessible by the year 2025. At the beginning, I remember thinking very clearly that this would be achievable within seven years, maybe 10 at the outside. But as my hearings went on and as I looked at the previous reviews and listened to people’s real-life stories of the barriers they were facing and the dispiriting situations that they found themselves in, I’ve come to reach a completely different conclusion.

I know there is a strong difference of opinion on this, but I would simply put it to you that as you look at other endeavours by government, whether they are matters related to climate change or the environment, or whether you’re dealing with students as I do at the University of Toronto in political science, you have to have a date, a deadline and a clear objective in mind. If you don’t, it just becomes an endless process.

The Chair: Mr. Onley, I apologize, but I will have to interrupt you.

Mr. Onley: That’s quite all right.

The Chair: I know we have many questions, and you will have a chance to go deeper into what you’re saying. Thank you for your opening remarks, but we would like to have time for everyone.

Excerpt 2

The Chair: We have a list of senators who have questions. Senators, please say from whom you would like an answer.

Senator Seidman: Thank you very much for your presentations. There is no question in my mind that this is quite a wonderful way to end our hearings, because you’ve all presented very powerfully and clearly, so I thank you for that.

Tomorrow, we will do clause by clause. I think we also hear your plea. We’ve heard over and over again in our hearings that the disability communities do not want us to do anything to jeopardize this legislation. They feel very strongly that it is an important beginning for disability communities, and I think we hear that as well.

We have looked at very clear, crisp amendments that would improve the legislation in what might be considered a mandatory kind of way that we think might be able to get to the house and back again. That is the issue here, because any amendments we make have to go back to the House of Commons.

I might start with you, Ms. Jodhan, and then move to everyone if they wish. If there were one area of legislation that you would ask us to strengthen, what would you choose?

Ms. Jodhan: I would ask you to ensure that timelines and deadlines are implanted into Bill C-81 so they could be adhered to more correctly. Without timelines and deadlines, it is not possible to have things happen in an orderly manner. So in response to your question, I think timelines and deadlines are what I would like to see strengthened.

Senator Seidman: Perfect. Thank you.

Mr. Onley: I would agree. You said it very succinctly: timelines and deadlines. You could even go to the point of calling for a realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040. It sounds like a long time, but it is not.

Unless there is a timeframe objective, it can become a lot of virtue-signalling. We’ve had enough of that over the decades.

Senator Seidman: Thank you, that’s very helpful. Mr. Sutton?

Mr. Sutton: I agree with my colleagues. Timelines are critical.

One thing we’ve seen in numerous jurisdictions is that, when it is not the priority of the government, things become sidetracked. It is so critical, because this government has made accessibility through this legislation their priority but future governments may not. We really want to see a vision and an end timeline.

For example, Ontario in 2025. We know that on January 1, 2025, we will not wake up to a fully accessible Ontario, but we know that a lot of things should have been implemented by then. From there we will work toward more standards and regulations. Timelines and deadlines are critical.

Excerpt 3

Senator Moodie: My question is directed to the Honourable David Onley. Your honour, can you give us some ideas I know we cut you short when you were presenting and I got the sense that there was a richness of the Ontario experience that you might have shared with us. What have we learned from the Ontario experience? What are the pitfalls here, besides the timelines which you spoke to very clearly?

Mr. Onley: I feel the big takeaway from the experience was that there are a lot of very frustrated people who are really expecting government to deliver on this. And while we were talking about the Ontario act, the conversation again and again, without any prompting from the presenters, inevitably moved over to the federal act, and considerable enthusiasm that, at last, there was going to be a national approach to accessibility.

I think that was probably the most overwhelming thing, because it just kept happening again and again, whether it was a hearing at Carleton University in Ottawa, or up in Thunder Bay, or in London or other parts of the province. Without any prompting, that message kept coming back again and again. So there is an expectation, and there will be profound disappointment if this is a watered down or weakened document. People are really looking for results.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you to all of you for being here. Yes, we are getting near the finish line of a very long race. It is just the beginning, so we are thrilled to have all of you here today helping us solidify some of these next steps.

This comment or question is for the Honourable David Onley. I want to thank you. Your video still reigns across the province and the country for education and training. It is a video that’s still used, and I bring that up for a particular reason. You have talked about timelines, and we’ve heard that. The education and training piece, when you have finished your third review, learnings from AODA and our next step moving forward, we don’t see that as a specifically purposeful statement in this bill. I would love if you could comment on that aspect of education and training and what you believe it has meant for culture, in your experience, in Ontario.

Mr. Onley: It has certainly been an incremental process. I think it has been assisted by groups such as Roots of Empathy, to name just one, that have encouraged in their own way to help improve our society, as well as the different advocacy groups who have been inspired to continue working at this.

Prior to the cameras being turned on, Donna and I were talking about and I hear this again and again from others just how tired we are as advocates. There are only so many decades not years but decades that you can keep pursuing things without reaching a point where you just wonder how much longer you can keep on doing it.

I realize this doesn’t fully answer your question, but be assured that if there is quality content to this and people see that it is a strong bill and a strong act, that there will be considerable enthusiasm and support that will be directed towards it. I think it would then be an encouragement insofar as education and the training is concerned.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you to all four of you for your continued and tireless advocacy.

Senator Ravalia: My question, too, is for the Honourable David Onley. Thank you to all of you for your presentations. Your honour, outside of the timelines, are there any aspects of Bill C-81 that you feel did not fully address what you so articulately said at the beginning: the ability to achieve one’s full potential?

Mr. Onley: No, I think it has been well covered. I really do. It is something that’s going to require work as this act comes into force, but it is also going to require the Province of Ontario, with many of the recommendations that I made in the review, and other provinces with their own initiatives this is not going to be, like in a football analogy, a Hail Mary pass where the act comes into force and Royal Assent is given and then we start holding parades for accessibility. We still have a long way to go, but it will be an encouragement to advocacy groups, to other provinces that have accessibility acts and encouragement, I hope, to provinces that don’t have accessibility acts to enact their own in their areas of jurisdiction.

Senator Ravalia: Thank you.

Excerpt 4

Senator Omidvar: I understand that, but I wonder if the Honourable David Onley would comment from his review of the AODA and his long years of experience in Ontario. As an Ontarian, I lived through that. Is there clarity or interplay or confusion? And how should we best be advised to deal with that?

Mr. Onley: Like everything else in Canadian politics, is this a federal or provincial matter? The answer is yes.

As long as people see that legitimate efforts are being made within the respective spheres of influence or responsibility, any of the overlapping that could inevitably occur will be seen with a real sense of goodwill as opposed to confusion.

It is fairly clear as to what areas are covered, insofar as federal responsibilities are concerned, and fairly clear as to what areas are provincial in this particular area. So I think pressing on with considerable vigour, in terms of its implementation, will be a great encouragement.

4 Years Ago Today David Onley Gave the Ford Government A Scathing Report On Ontario’s Disability Barriers – We Honour Onley’s Legacy by Urging the Next Independent Review of the Disabilities Act to Reaffirm Onley’s Findings and His Unimplemented Roadmap for Reform

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

January 31, 2023

As Ontario, with sadness, says goodbye to late former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, the torch is passed to all Ontarians to honour his legacy. The best way to honour that legacy is for Ontario to fully implement the practical roadmap that the David Onley Report gave the Ontario Government four years ago today, to become accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.

As our first action to help honour his legacy, the AODA Alliance today makes public a brief, dedicated to David Onley’s memory, that documents exactly how far behind Ontario is on becoming accessible to people with disabilities. We will submit this brief to the Fourth Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the Ontario Government appointed Mr. Rich Donovan last year to conduct. The brief’s summary is set out below. The full brief can be downloaded at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Jan-31-2023-AODA-Alliance-Draft-Rich-Donovan-Assessment-Brief-Posted-for-Feedback.docx

This is a draft of our brief. We seek the public’s input on this draft by this Sunday, before we finalize it for the Donovan Independent Review.

Four years ago to the day, David Onley sent the Ontario Government the blistering report of the Independent Review of the AODA which the Government had appointed him to conduct, but the Government has still not implemented his widely praised roadmap for making Ontario accessible, said David Lepofsky, Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities, and David Onley’s friend and comrade-in-arms. We ask the Rich Donovan Independent Review to affirm the Onley Report’s findings, and to find that progress on accessibility has actually slowed and even backslid over the four years since Mr. Onley delivered his recommendations to the Ontario Government.

On April 10, 2019, Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho told the Legislature that Mr. Onley did a marvelous job in his report. In 2018, the Ontario Government had appointed Mr. Onley to conduct the third mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, and to recommend reforms needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025 (the deadline which Ontario’s Disabilities Act sets).

Onley’s report found that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” His report found that “the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

Onley wrote: “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

The Onley report recommended desperately needed major new action, to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Disabilities Act.

Feedback on our new draft brief can be sent to the AODA Alliance at aodafeedback@gmail.com up to the end of February 5, 2023.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Summary of the Draft Brief of the AODA Alliance to the Rich Donovan Fourth Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Here is a quick summary of what is in this brief: Part I of this brief explains who the AODA Alliance is. It identifies the questions that we urge this AODA Independent Review to ask in this first phase of its work. We encourage this Independent Review to honour the legacy of the late David Onley by reaffirming the findings that he and the two earlier AODA Independent Reviews made in their reports to the Ontario Government. We document that the previous and current Ontario Governments have, regrettably, not acknowledged some of those key findings.

Part II summarizes the key findings that we invited the David Onley AODA Independent Review to make in the AODA Alliances exhaustive January 15, 2019 brief, that we submitted to that Independent Review. We resubmit that brief to this Independent Review, because with few exceptions, its analysis and proposed findings remain apposite today. In Part II, we have removed any conclusions that we asked the Onley Independent Review to make that are no longer relevant. We also expand on those findings with key events since the Onley Report was submitted to the Ontario Government on January 31, 2019.

The rest of this brief focuses on developments over the past four years since the Onley Report was submitted to the Government. Part III shows how the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic created new disability barriers and failed to effectively address the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the pandemic in fundamental ways. It focuses on this in the context of Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system. It concludes with a specific examination of the harms to people with disabilities created by the Ontario critical care triage protocol, which has been entrenched in our health care system despite the serious disability discrimination that is embedded in it.

Part IV takes a closer look on the serious barriers that impede students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. Part V examines the barriers facing patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. In each case, we emphasize the failure of the Ontario Government to effectively address these recurring disability barriers.

Part VI takes a look at a new and troubling disability barrier that has been emerging in parts of Ontario since 2020, due to action by the Ontario Government. Specifically, the proliferation of electric scooters (e-scooters) on roads, sidewalks and in other public places. This has made Ontario less accessible and safe for vulnerable people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Part VII addresses the one major new initiative on accessibility that the Ford Government has instituted, one which is seriously flawed. The Government has spent 1.3 million dollars on the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program, about which we have raised strong objections.

Finally, Part VIII concludes this brief with a focus on the failure of the Premier, and over the past months, the Accessibility Minister, to even meet with us.

This brief as a whole is a statement of the findings that we ask the 4th AODA Independent Review to make. In summary, we ask the Review to endorse the findings of the first three AODA Independent Reviews, and to find:

* Ontario is not on schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, as the AODA requires. Progress to date on accessibility has been too slow, and far slower than Ontario could have achieved. The major cause for this situation is that the Ontario Government has failed to effectively implement this legislation. Steps have been taken to implement it, that while helpful, fall short of what was needed. This was the state of affairs before June 2018. Progress since that date has slowed even further. As the three earlier AODA Independent Reviews correctly found, there is a real public appetite for and acceptance of the AODA’s goals. The lack of effective Government leadership has not converted that public appetite and acceptance into the amount of action that has been needed.

* There has been a lack of leadership on accessibility from the Premier’s Office which has trickled down in the Ontario Government. Three successive premiers have not showed the renewed and revitalized leadership on the AODA for which three successive AODA Independent Reviews have called.

* As a result, too many pre-existing disability barriers remain in place. Moreover, throughout the life of the AODA, more new barriers have been created, including those financed with public money.

* The insufficient progress was experienced across society and the economy. Prime illustrations are the failure to make effective progress towards accessibility for students with disabilities in the education system, and for patients with disabilities in the health care system.

* These serious problems reached a crescendo during the COVID-19 pandemic. People with disabilities were disproportionately exposed to get COVID-19, to suffer its worst impact and even to die from it. The Ontario Government failed to effectively meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the pandemic. This was especially manifested in the education system and the health care system.

* These failures are not due to the exact wording of the AODA. It still contains the key legislative ingredients that are needed.

* These failures hurt all Ontarians. They hurt those people who have a disability now, or who have someone near and dear to them with a disability. They hurt all the rest, who are bound to get a disability later in their lives.

* A successful strategy on accessibility must include more than strong and effective legislation. However, without the effective implementation of such legislation, the attainment of the AODA’s goals is not possible.

* Ontario is capable of doing much better. Even if it were assumed that only one third of the concerns documented in this brief were valid, there is ample room for the Government to improve its implementation and enforcement of the AODA.

Accessibility News January 28,2023 Update

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The AODA Clock is Ticking

There is 1 year, 48 weeks, 2 days until a fully Accessible Ontario! Will you be compliant?

In this Issue

*New AODA 7-Minute Video kicks Off Blitz to get the Senate to Strengthen Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act
*Residents Living with Disabilities Share Accessibility Concerns During Sask. Accessibility Challenge
*Universities ‘Illegally Hitting Disabled Students with Extra Housing Costs’
*’Enough is Enough’: Advocates Say London’s ParaTransit Needs Immediate Change
*City May Reverse Policy That Exceeds Provincial Mandate for Sidewalk Snow Removal
*Broken Wheelchair Buttons are Leaving Students Stuck Out in the Cold
*Alberta Woman Filing Human Rights Complaint After Saying Taxi Denied Ride to Her and Service Dog

eSSENTIAL Accessibility is an Accessibility-as-a-Service platform. It helps organizations deliver inclusive web, mobile, and product experiences in compliance with legal requirements to ensure that no one with a disability is left behind.

To learn more, visit http://www.essentialaccessibility.com.

Press Releases:

* eSSENTIAL Accessibility and Level Access Complete Next Step of Merger: Unifying Identity Under the Level Access Name
https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/essential-accessibility-level-access-complete-135500831.html * eSSENTIAL Accessibility (eA) Named a “Next Big Thing in Tech” by Fast Company
https://www.yahoo.com/now/essential-accessibility-ea-named-next-130000812.html

Past Press Releases:

https://www.essentialaccessibility.com/news

ARTICLES:

New AODA 7-Minute Video kicks Off Blitz to get the Senate to Strengthen Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act Watch Trudeau Government Flip-Flop on Whether the Bill has Needed Amendments

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/new-aoda-7-minute-video-kicks-off-blitz-to-get-the-senate-to-strengthen-bill-c-22-the-canada-disability-benefit-act/

Residents Living with Disabilities Share Accessibility Concerns During Sask. Accessibility Challenge

Some Saskatoon residents feel the snow removal efforts in the city are enough for most people to get by, but for those with mobility issues have extra hurdles to jump over.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/residents-living-with-disabilities-share-accessibility-concerns-during-sask-accessibility-challenge/

Universities ‘Illegally Hitting Disabled Students with Extra Housing Costs’

Exclusive: Students told openDemocracy of receiving unfair charges for adapted rooms or for carers’ accommodation

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/universities-illegally-hitting-disabled-students-with-extra-housing-costs/

‘Enough is Enough’: Advocates Say London’s ParaTransit Needs Immediate Change

Londoners are speaking out about ongoing issues with paratransit in London and renewing calls for change after years of frustration.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/enough-is-enough-advocates-say-londons-paratransit-needs-immediate-change/

City May Reverse Policy That Exceeds Provincial Mandate for Sidewalk Snow Removal

Two years ago the City of London adopted a higher standard for sidewalk snow clearing, exceeding provincial requirements.

City staff are now recommending going back to the previous benchmark in order to save costs.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/city-may-reverse-policy-that-exceeds-provincial-mandate-for-sidewalk-snow-removal/

Broken Wheelchair Buttons are Leaving Students Stuck Out in the Cold

Logan Stewart, a first-year public relations student at Algonquin College, says the broken buttons in the N-building have left him outside in the cold this term.
The wheelchair-accessible buttons for the main doors into the N-building have been broken on and off since early 2022.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/broken-wheelchair-buttons-are-leaving-students-stuck-out-in-the-cold/

Alberta Woman Filing Human Rights Complaint After Saying Taxi Denied Ride to Her and Service Dog

“It feels like I’m being discriminated against because I have a disability and I have a service dog,” Karen Almond told Global News on Friday. “It feels like a slap in the face.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/alberta-woman-filing-human-rights-complaint-after-saying-taxi-denied-ride-to-her-and-service-dog/

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New AODA 7-Minute Video kicks Off Blitz to get the Senate to Strengthen Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act

Watch Trudeau Government Flip-Flop on Whether the Bill has Needed Amendments

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

January 27, 2023

SUMMARY

Check out the new 7-minute AODA Alliance online video, showing the Trudeau Liberals’ flip-flopping on whether it is good or bad to make amendments to Bill C-22, the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act. The video is at https://youtu.be/EoOYYY6ki6k

MORE DETAILS

A New Online Video!

Please watch and widely share a brand new 7-minute online video that the AODA Alliance just released. It kicks off our campaign over the next weeks to press the Senate of Canada to strengthen the weak Bill C-22, the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act. Bill C-22 is supposed to lift hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities out of poverty. However, it doesn’t ensure that anyone will ever be lifted out of poverty.

We will be calling on the Senate to make amendments to Bill C-22, to strengthen it. The Trudeau Government will try to get the Senate not to make any amendments. It will also try to get disability organizations to just pass the bill without amendments! Our new video helps respond to any suggestion that any amendments to Bill C-22 would be a bad thing.

Last fall, when Bill C-22 was being considered by the House of Commons, we and many others from the disability and anti-poverty communities said that Bill C-22 was too weak. The Trudeau Government tried to argue that the bill was just fine as is, and should be passed with no amendments at all. They tried to get disability organizations, appearing at Standing Committee hearings last fall, to support their position.

However, when it came time last fall for that House of Commons Standing Committee to vote on amendments that the opposition parties proposed, the Trudeau Liberals did a major flip flop. They went from saying that there should be no amendments, to applauding several opposition amendments as “excellent”. This video shows their flip-flop from their own mouths, for all to see.

Eventually, the House of Commons passed nine amendments, only one of which the Liberals opposed. Those changes were helpful to a point, but in the end, the bill is still too weak. The resulting text of Bill C-22 still falls far short of what people with disabilities need to ensure that they are lifted out of poverty.

Remember what is in this video when Bill C-22 reaches the Senate in the next weeks, and when the Liberals flip-flop again, saying that amendments to the bill are a bad thing. The Liberals have pulled a 180 degree turn on the issue of amending this bill before. They can do it again!

Take 7 minutes to watch the video and judge for yourself! Get others to do the same. Share it on social media. Send it to any news reporters you can reach.

We know that the video’s captions need to be tweaked a bit. Our volunteers are going to get that done as quickly as we can.

What’s Next for Bill C-22

What comes next for Bill C-22? The House of Commons returns from its holiday break on Monday, January 30, 2023. It has to vote for Bill C-22 on Third Reading. Everyone expects that it will pass. We and many others call on the Government to schedule the Third Reading debate as quickly as possible, so that the bill can get to the Senate for its consideration.

We have called on the House of Commons to pass a simple but important amendment during Third Reading to fix a screw-up with the bill’s start date, that the House of Commons Standing Committee created. We have alerted the Trudeau Government and all MPs to this concern. If the Government wants to do this, they can easily seek agreement from the opposition parties, who should, we hope, be agreeable. The Government has not answered us on this issue. You can read more about this in the December 19, 2022 AODA Alliance Update.

Once the Senate passes the bill on First and Second Readings, it is expected to send the bill for public hearings in the Senate. We will ask to present at those hearings.

We are busily working on the amendments that we will propose to the Senate. Stay tuned for more on this in the coming days.

Send us your feedback. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

For More Background

To learn more about these issues, explore:

* What Bill C-22 says now, after all the amendments that were passed in the House of Commons so far.

* The December 12, 2022 AODA Alliance Update that gives a detailed analysis of the first day of HUMA’s clause-by-clause review of Bill C-22, on December 7, 2022.

* The December 19, 2022 AODA Alliance Update that gives an analysis of the second day of clause-by-clause review of Bill C-22.

* The 21-minute captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s November 14, 2022 testimony at HUMA. It tells you all you need to know. Its concerns about the bill remain valid even after HUMA’s amendments.

* The November 14, 2022 open letter on Bill C-22, originally signed by 37 organizations (now increased to 41) from six provinces across Canada, that the AODA Alliance tabled with the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

* The 15 amendments to Bill C-22 that the AODA Alliance has requested.

* The AODA Alliance brief to the House of Commons on Bill C-22.

* The AODA Alliance’s guest column in the November 7, 2022 edition of the Toronto Star, and the powerful Toronto Star editorial that day that cites the AODA Alliance’s concerns with Bill C-22.

* The AODA Alliance website’s Bill C-22 page, which shows our efforts to strengthen this proposed new law.

Residents Living with Disabilities Share Accessibility Concerns During Sask. Accessibility Challenge

Some Saskatoon residents feel the snow removal efforts in the city are enough for most people to get by, but for those with mobility issues have extra hurdles to jump over.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/residents-living-with-disabilities-share-accessibility-concerns-during-sask-accessibility-challenge/