While there is room for improvement, PSAC has reiterated its support for the government’s Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act.
Once C-81 is passed, the government will have the authority to work with stakeholders and Canadians with disabilities to create new accessibility standards and regulations that will apply to the federal government and to federal sectors including banking, telecommunications, and transportation industries such as air and rail. These new regulated standards also will set out requirements for organizations to follow in order to identify, remove, and prevent barriers to accessibility.
Appearing before the Social Affairs, Science and Technology committee on May 1, PSAC outlined some of the flaws in the proposed law as it affects federal public service workers (PSAC appears at 18:00).
One of the union’s key concerns is that the new Act overlaps provisions in the current Employment Equity Act which also require employers to create plans to eliminate barriers to employment for persons with disabilities. However, the Employment Equity Act is long overdue for an update. The law is scheduled for review every five years but, in spite of the union regularly raising the issue, the last review took place in 2002.
The union noted that the Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion’s final report indicated that the top two barriers identified by employees to achieving diversity and inclusion in the workplace were “staffing and recruitment policies and practices”, and “the level of workplace accommodation and accessibility”. The Public Service Employee Survey results also consistently show that persons with disabilities face high rates of discrimination at work.
As a result, the union has recommended centralizing disability-related issues and accessibility in the federal public service by returning to Treasury Board and the Public Service Commission, the responsibilities that have been devolved to departments, and requiring Treasury Board to set up a central accommodation fund for the public service.
The Senate committee is proposing amendments to the bill by including some deadlines for implementation of the new law. If these amendments are adopted by the Senate, the bill must be returned to the House of Commons. If the House agrees to the amendments, the amended bill will become law. If the House does not agree to any or all of the amendments, it will go back to the Senate. Senators will then be asked to decide whether or not they will adopt the bill.
Read PSAC’s submission to the Senate Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee.