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BFM Entering a Hibernation Mode

Sleeping polar bear

We did it. It's hard to believe but we really did it. And we did it together with passion, perseverance and panache.

Following 5+ years of incredible effort, we have finally achieved the goal of securing strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation in Manitoba.

We at Barrier-Free Manitoba are humbled by the support and encouragement, both from within and beyond the disability community. We are also gratified by this collective and historic success.

But the season of this exceptional legislative victory has run its course. So being, Barrier-Free Manitoba has decided to enter into a hibernation mode that will start January 1, 2014 and continue through this spring. This will provide:

  • The Government with the opportunity to establish and begin to implement its plan for meeting its many responsibilities under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act.
  • The folks most directly involved with Barrier-Free Manitoba with the chance to step away from the glorious grind of this advocacy work and to 'recharge our batteries'.
  • Others with more time to ponder what will be needed in the coming years to ensure the full and effective implementation of the new legislation.

Current plans are for Barrier-Free Manitoba to end our hibernation by hosting a community event to be held in June 2014. This event will provide a forum to review the Government's progress in implementing the Act, as well as to discuss the need and options for a continued independent community capacity to ensure the realization of the Act's full potential.

During the period of hibernation, Barrier-Free Manitoba will not be publicly active. We will not be:

  • Posting updates on our website or Facebook page.
  • Sending tweets on our Twitter account (other than our daily e-paper on global accessibility stories).
  • Sending email updates to endorsers or others on our email list.
  • Responding to email inquiries or written correspondence.

These will be reactivated in May 2014 to invite agencies, community members and others to the community event planned for June.

So we are signing off for now. Thank you for your extraordinary confidence and support. We will be in touch again in May.

Have a wonderful festive season and winter.

The Barrier-Free Manitoba Steering Committee and Consultant

Dale Kendel (Community Living Manitoba)
David Steen (Society for Manitobans with Disabilities)
Jeannette DeLong (Abilities Manitoba)
Janet Forbes (Children's Coalition)
Oly Backstrom (Manitoba Supported Employment Network)
Patrick Falconer (Consultant)

Technical Note

Most polar bears do not actually hibernate. Only pregnant female polar bears do and then they give birth to new life in the spring. Our hibernation is likewise. A lot of work will lie ahead to ensure the full and effective implementation of The Accessibility for Manitobans Act. We hope that the community event in June 2014 will bring new life into meeting the many challenges ahead.

Landmark Manitoba Bill 26 Given Royal Assent


Landmark Manitoba Bill 26 was given Royal Assent on December 5th. It's no longer just a Bill. It's now the law in Manitoba.

And with this, we have finally achieved the goal of securing strong and effective provincial accessibility-rights legislation. It's been five long, joyous and challenging years.

Now we all can CELEBRATE the successful completion of this historic project began back in 2008.

Next stage in this human rights saga will start soon - ensuring the full and effective implementation of the new law. Having shown leadership and commitment in enacting the legislation, the government will need some time to develop and begin to implement a robust plan to realize the law's transformative power and promise.  

Bill 26 Passes with All-Party Unanimous Support

Bison and thanks

Bill 26 passed Third Reading on the afternoon of December 3, 2013 (The International Day of Persons with Disabilites). The bill received all-party, unanimous support.

Minister Jennifer Howard introduced the bill for Third Reading and spoke about the historic importance of the legislation. Here's how she concluded her remarks:

"It [Bill 26] is going to benefit generations and generations and generations of Manitobans, and I am so thankful that we will stand united today in this Chamber and give approval to third reading of this bill, because I think today we are changing the world and those opportunities don't come along that often in this line of work.

So I want to thank the members opposite of all parties who've been along on this journey, who've offered helpful advice and their support. This is a good day, Mr. Speaker. We should celebrate. Thank you."  

Both Leanne Rowat (PC) and Jon Gerrard (Liberal) also spoke with passion in support of the bill while noting several areas where they would like to have seen it strengthened. 

What a great day for Manitobans!

You can listen to the audio transcript of the Third Party debate by clisking here (31 minutes). Full versions of the Hansard from the Third Reading are posted here. Selected highlights from remarks by Minister Jennifer Howard, Leanne Rowat (PC) and Jon Gerrard (Liberal) are posted here

The Impact of Action

Splash of water drop

We Spoke, They Listened and Made Changes

The two history celebrating/making events of October 29, 2013 lasted a little over seven hours.

The Barrier-Free Manitoba hosted reception was grand (if we do say so ourselves) with many kind words spoken by our Steering Committee, Minister Howard, PC Critic Ms. Rowat and Dr. Gerrard, lots of wonderful food and a spectacular performance by Canada's first Deaf hoop dancer.

The Standing Committee meeting started shortly after 6 pm. The place was beyond packed and they had to open an 'overflow room to accommodate the crowd. The meeting featured a range of thoughtful, moving and passionate public presentations in support of both Bill 26 and of the measures still needed to strengthen it. Click here for selected highlights from the community presentations.

The Standing Committee's review of the Bill ended a little after 11:30 pm (the meeting itself went on to 4 am). The Committee passed the Bill with six government sponsored amendments. Three amendments moved by PC Critic Leanne Rowat were debated but defeated.

Big gains in the changes passed include:

  • More inclusive definition/wording re: disabilities
  • Residential exclusion clause clarified (but not deleted)
  • Target date of 2023 for significant progress established with clear ministerial accountability
  • Requirements regarding accessibility and Legislative Assembly added
  • Requirement that reports obligated under the act are provided in accessible formats within reasonable time at no cost.

Click here for a summary of the amendments passed and also those which were defeated.

A good night's work. We walked out with what we had called for - a strengthened bill now set to go forward for Third Reading.

We did not get all we wanted. The bill is not perfect but it is now much improved. Dare we say that Bill 26 is now truly game changing, landmark legislation of which we all can be proud?

Special kudos to the ASL interpreters (Brenda and Tessa) and Darcia who provided the CART services. They all did an amazing job at the reception and the Standing Committee meeting.

We will be able to share more once Hansard from the meeting is available (this might be a week or more given the tremendous volume that must be transcribed). We may begin by posting some pictures taken at the events.

We extend our thanks to so many for their interest and unfailing support.

Good intentions don't move mountains, dedicated and committed people can and do.

Barrier-Free Manitoba is a non-partisan, non-profit, cross-disability initiative. We have been working since 2008 to secure strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation in Manitoba.

Nearly 200,000 Manitobans with disabilities face barriers everyday that prevent their full participation in activities that most others take for granted.

These barriers harm individuals, families and communities. These barriers are also in fundamental conflict with the basic rights of persons with disabilities established in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in federal and provincial human rights codes.

It’s the sad and unjust reality. But we are on the road to change it!

With the support of many, Barrier-Free 1.0 concluded with the passage of The Accessibility Advisory Council Act. Barrier-Free 2.0 represents the next stage of our work – the drive to the passage of substantive and landmark legislation that requires the timely removal of current barriers and the prevention of new ones.

It has been a rather exceptional journey to date. We invite you to join us along this rights path toward an inclusive Manitoba that ensures and celebrates opportunity and equity for all.








What's New

This Website is Now Archived

December 20, 2013 The BFM website was virtually archived on December 20, 2013.

The New Law has Now been Posted / Here's an Accessible Copy!

December 19, 2013 The official version of the new Accessibility for Manitobans Act has now been posted as a statute in the Province of Manitoba.


Will independent community vigilence be needed to ensure the effective implementation of Bill 26?

Will independent community vigilence be needed to ensure the effective implementation of Bill 26?
No. Just trust government! 3.4%
Maybe. Let's see! 14.8%
Yes. Vigilance essential! 81.9%