Legal Developments in Disability Rights This Year

2018 has been a landmark year for Canadians with disabilities. From the introduction of Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, to the accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“CRPD”), to the numerous achievements and ongoing efforts of local community organizations and human rights advocates, Canadians are working hard to create a more inclusive Canada.  While much work remains to be done, it is important to recognize victories as they come—we need to maintain the momentum! Below, we highlight some of the more significant legal developments from 2018.

Last summer (on June 20, 2018), the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, introduced the proposed Accessible Canada Act. If passed, the Act will require the Government of Canada and the federally-regulated public and private sectors to identify and remove barriers, and prevent new barriers, that hinder the full and equal participation of people with disabilities in society.

The Act focuses on barriers in:

  • employment (job opportunities and employment policies and practices);
  • built environments (buildings and public spaces);
  • information and communication technologies (digital content and technologies used to access it);
  • the procurement of goods, services and facilities;
  • the design and delivery of programs and services;
  • transportation; and
  • other designated areas.

We commend  the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, for her continued efforts in moving the proposed Act forward and hope that it is passed into law shortly.

More recently (on December 3, 2018), Canada acceded to the Optional Protocol to the CRPD. The Optional Protocol provides Canadians with additional recourse to make complaints if they believe their rights under the CRPD have been violated. More specifically, the it establishes a complaint procedure that allows individuals to make complaints to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the “Committee”) where they believe their rights under the CRPD have been violated. To be admissible, a complaint must meet certain conditions, e.g., all available domestic remedies must first be exhausted (unless the application of the remedies is unreasonably prolonged or unlikely to bring effective relief). The Optional Protocol also establishes an inquiry procedure that allows the Committee to inquire into allegations of grave or systematic violations of the CRPD by a State Party.

These developments symbolize and reinforce a progressive movement towards recognition of the rights of people with disabilities and the multi-faceted approach required to ensure inclusion and accessibility for all Canadians.

PooranLaw will continue to provide you with updates on legal developments affecting the disability community.