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Highlights from Community Presentations

Nov 08, 2013

Highlights from Community Presentations on Bill 26

Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development Meeting / October 29, 2013 

These highlights are selected excerpts from each of the nineteen community presentations as recorded in Hansard. These are also available as downloads (PDF / Word). 

Mr. David Lepofsky, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

I want to begin by, on behalf of my coalition in Ontario, congratulating the government of Manitoba, Minister Howard, for bringing forward this legislation and for the opposition party for supporting it. This is a huge and momentous development. . . .

And if there's something we've learned from the Ontario experience, it's that you don't write a law for the people sitting around the table there tonight. You're excited about this and you're looking forward to being proud about achieving it and collaborating on it. You've got to write a law for the people who are going to be doing this three, four, five, six, seven, eight, 10 years down the road, and making sure that they are directed to take actions because, invariably, they will find flexibility means we don't really have to do as much as the people may have thought they had to do when they were sitting where you're sitting today.

Ms. Gail Mores, March of Dimes Canada

Accessibility legislation will ultimately touch every aspect of the economy and society in ways that very few other laws ever do. To quote the former Ontario Community and Social Services minister, Charles Beer, it is an instrument for transforming our attitudes towards people with disabilities. Its overriding goal is to achieve meaningful and tangible improvements to the lives of people with disabilities.

The last thing you want to do is enact legislation of this magnitude only to relegate the administrative functions of support, outreach and compliance to minimal levels of staff with inadequate resources. Our accompanying written submission, which you have, gets into the detail of where we recommend greater consideration. In sum, clarity of obligation will help ensure compliance. And while this sounds too obvious, we all know of regulations that have passed the face of uncertainty from obligated sectors.

Mr. Kevin Rebeck, Manitoba Federation of Labour

The bottom line is, when society tolerates barriers to accessibility, the result is large pools of untapped human capital that could help drive the province's prosperity.

Businesses can benefit from these standards in three ways: first, increased access to retail and tourism opportunities could result in accelerated growth in these sectors; second, there is the capacity to support accessibility-focused businesses able to serve global markets which are grappling with these very same challenges; and third, our universities, colleges, and other institutions can help educate the next generation of workers and develop new intellectual property that can prepare businesses to compete in the growing number of markets defined by accessibility requirements.

The point must be made that there are costs associated with doing nothing and tolerating the current social exclusion. Continued exclusion means significant costs from the entire province through increased health-care demands and poverty-related social programs. These costs are born by persons with disabilities, their families and the communities they live in.

Mr. Patrick Falconer, Barrier-Free Manitoba

We want to congratulate the minister and government for taking this incredibly important bill forward, but we recognize that the congratulations don't stop there. The bill was developed through recommendations where you had representation from business, seniors, the municipal sectors in terms of an advisory council, and they contributed and did a lot of heavy lifting on this, and we want to acknowledge that.

We'd like to acknowledge that the opposition parties, the Liberals and the PCs, have played a major role in terms of supporting this legislation, both in consultation with us and in terms of debate in the House. So we believe, we've always said that this is non-partisan legislation; this is good public policy. We believe this is a major public issue, and we appreciate, applaud and very much are aware of the support we have had from all of the parties.

We believe this legislation is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enact strong and effective accessibility rights legislation that will address widespread systemic discrimination while providing meaningful benefits to all Manitobans. Bill 26 as written gets us ever so close to realizing this opportunity, but we feel that it falls short in 11 areas that are outlined in our brief. It needs to be strengthened before it goes on to third reading.

Ms. Laurie Helgason, private citizen

My biggest worry is that this bill has no teeth and no timeline. Without a realistic timeline of when things are supposed to be equal for us, it'll never happen. The white paper promised us equality in 20 years, and now 20 years have gone by and we're still second-class citizens. While most of you enjoy shopping wherever you want, we're restricted in where we can go. People often tell me that I can't expect businesses to become accessible–it's quite an expense–when most times all that's needed is a $15 asphalt patch. . . . 

Bill 26 does not have a timeline for when we're going to become fully accessible and it does not have measures for when accessibility will be enforced. We're still doing what we were doing 10 years ago, saying it should happen and hoping it will by using pretty words. We need this bill to have teeth to be able to make it accessible for those of us here that have been waiting so long to be a full citizen of Manitoba.

Ms. Libby Zdriluk, Independent Living Resource Centre

This legislation provides an opportunity to teach the general public about the awesome, untapped potential of the disability community. We are educated, we are entrepreneurs, we are leaders and we have families. We are involved in the community and many of us choose to remain connected to it. Some of us are gamers, others are teachers, et cetera. Employers should be encouraged to hire people with disabilities to truly see our capabilities and the amounts that we can contribute, not because of fear of accommodation.

I want to participate fully. I want opportunity, education, employment. If this legislation is just a discussion point without set dates, goals, targets, impact, real fines for not following the law, then why am I here? If I am to represent the average young person with a disability, then it falls on the provincial government to ensure there are tools for me to make sure that my potential is realized, and all I need is for the barriers to be continued to be taken down. And, more importantly, let's not allow barriers to be built in the first place. . .

Let's do it right. Let's become the model of inclusion not only for Canada, but for the entire world. Let's continue to be known for our commitment to human rights and have people say, they are including everyone.
It is the expectation of the community at large and community of persons with disabilities that the new accessibility act be far-reaching and precedent-setting. This is an excellent opportunity for the Province of Manitoba to respond to the needs of the community as a whole and create legislation that will resonate for generations to come.

Mr. David Steen, private citizen

Rights enjoyed by others are denied to me. I'm regularly denied choices in the marketplace that others take for granted. I regularly endure poor customer service from businesses that have failed to make their establishment accessible and inviting and that have failed to provide proper training to their staff. That happens every time you go out, and it's insulting.

Notwithstanding great efforts to facilitate my vote on election day to the use of accessible facilities and new technology, I'm unable to engage in other political activities or play out my rights and obligations as a citizen the day after the election. . . 

Manitoba is both in the spotlight and under the microscope. The advent of the Human Rights Museum juxtaposed against Canada's signing of the CRPD will focus all eyes on Manitoba. The universal question is, "can Manitoba walk the talk?"
Manitoba has a unique opportunity to demonstrate proactive leadership and raise the bar, through systemic means, on the articulation and enforcement of human rights. It has the opportunity to abandon the ramp by ramp approach and demonstrate to the world how rights-based progressive legislation can create a better society for all Manitobans.

Mr. Samuel Unrau, University of Winnipeg Students' Association

(W)e have come a long way towards implementing legislation that protects persons disabled by barriers in Manitoba. And there is still a lot of work to achieve this crucial goal. Two hundred thousand Manitobans who face barriers on a daily basis are counting on us and particularly as you–particularly to you, as MLA, to work to protect their rights. We have a great culture to get this mission done, and many here tonight are here to show their support for this mission. . . 

I look forward to a day where I don't have to say I wish I lived somewhere else; I wish I lived in a society where I actually felt I was welcome. Manitoba is my home and will always be my home. And in time I look forward to the ability to refer to myself simply as a Manitoban and not as a Manitoban who is disabled by barriers.

Ms. Megan Fultz, Canadian Federation of Students of Manitoba

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge what the creation of Bill 26 really means. This piece of legislation represents the real and tangible impact that can be generated by effective governing documents and setting standards for inclusion in our province. When we talk about Bill 26, we are talking about changing the fundamental structure of the way in which our province works to include and support all of its citizens. This bill is also a critical opportunity for Manitoba to act as a leader in understanding that exclusion is destructive and in no one's best interest, because what we're really talking about this evening is that when 200,000 Manitobans are not able to fully participate equally in all aspects of life in our province, we are not operating at our fullest capacity. And when we talk about the cost of implementing this bill and working towards the ultimate goal of a fully accessible Manitoba, the most significant cost is the one that we are already bearing: the cost to 200,000 individuals who face significant barriers every day in our province, the cost of not having standards for accessibility and of not having the valuable contributions of these members of our community. This bill is an investment in our economy and in a better Manitoba for all.

Ms. Jeannette Delong, Abilities Manitoba

We believe that setting target dates and a clear end goal helps create and sustain a sense of urgency and priority to meet the goals. A timeline and goal is an empowering tool for keeping the feet to the fire, keeping the dream alive, creating accountability, measuring progress and providing an opportunity for correction, communication and encouragement. Without a defined target date and effective drivers, the expected outcomes for this legislation will be more susceptible to delay, disregard and, at worst, eventual disappearance. . . 

People with disabilities have already had a lifetime of not having full access, and effective implementation of the law should not require persistent lobbying from persons with disabilities. Now, you have an opportunity to get this legislation to be the best it can be.

Ms. Ruth Enns, private citizen

Barriers of any kind, whether physical or attitudinal, are forms of rejection, shunning, abandonment, compartmentalization, containment. They relegate us to the status of the different, the unacceptable–us, I mean people with disabilities–to the status of the different, the unacceptable and the burdensome other. They bar us from full participation in our communities.
Barriers create unnecessary dependency, some-thing I call forced dependency. In creating dependency, barriers bring learned helplessness, fear and all the symptoms of emotional abuse. They force us to use greater energy, determination and creativity just to get through the day.

Barriers are a burden on society. To me the biggest barrier is attitude. If attitudes were to change, all other barriers would crumble. These barriers, such as the belief that life with disability is to be avoided at all cost, that people with disabilities cannot speak for themselves, that people with disabilities are burdensome non-contributors, et cetera, are the very things that make a life with disability so difficult, not the disabilities themselves. These beliefs create double standards and self-fulfilling prophecies. I regularly encounter well-intentioned people whose only interaction with me is to so-called help me, whether I want it or not. If I politely decline such offers, I have been testily informed more than once that I am too independent. Such encounters tell me that not only am I seen as perpetually dependent, I'm supposed to remain dependent, burdensome and non-contributing. I am never supposed to be an equal.

Mr. Oly Backstrom, private citizen

Barrier-Free Manitoba had been concerned about the sole reference in Bill 26 that addresses a definition of disability that may prove to be restrictive or problematic. The current wording did–or the wording as it had been framed in the legislation, at least, failed to address the principle that the legislation covered all abilities. . .

Now, this is where I'd like to draw attention to the leadership that Minister Howard has exemplified throughout the last four-plus years of this journey. Minister Howard, you took some of the wind out of my sails earlier today by already suggesting that you're going to make amendments to this by removing the reference to long term and changing the reference to impairment to one to disability, and I commend you for that. And if that is taking the wind out of my sails, you can take the wind out of my sails all day and through the rest of the evening; I would appreciate that.

Ms. Jess Turner, Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities

The MLPD is in full support of this important piece of legislation. The Accessibility for Manitobans Act highlights the need for equal rights through increased access and inclusiveness in Manitoba. The legislation is vital as it will extend beyond removing the physical barriers that exist in society, since the legislation defines disability within a social context. Often when I speak to others about my disability, it's not the physical barriers in society that cause me the greatest challenges. As many of the other presenters have mentioned, if a building has stairs and I can't access the space, that's one thing. But my greatest barrier, and the barrier of all persons with disabilities, continues to be society's negative perception of disability. This legislation will serve to bring accessibility issues to the forefront of the general public's mind. In turn, individuals will come to realize that disability affects everyone in society.

Ms. Jennifer Frain, New Directions for Children, Youth, Adults and Families

First, I'd like to congratulate the government and specifically Minister Howard for having developed and tabled Bill 26. It's extraordinary legislation. Thank you, Minister Howard, for your tremendous leadership. And because Bill 26 is so important to the future of our province it's ever so important that when it's passed, the law is also–is very strong as well as being effective. . .
So we're asking for Bill 26 to be amended clearly–to clearly meet the government's commit-ment which we love, which is a fine under the new act should be set so that the cost of paying the fine is not less than the cost of compliance with the act. . .

Bill 26 landmark legislation that has been developed to drive systemic reform required to promote and protect the basic human right to accessibility that is enshrined in international, national and provincial law. This legislation needs to be substantial with serious consequences for non-compliance. As it stands, Bill 26 doesn't accomplish that; it's missing its teeth.

Mr. Ross Eadie, private citizen

We heard from one of our presenters who talked about access to health care, basic needs, groceries. Those should be priorities, and so grocery stores where most people go, those should be made accessible first. And they're big enough to handle it; let's get them to do it. There's no reason why you can't get that done in a shorter period of time. . . 

When you're creating these regulations, it's important to find out from them [persons with disabilities] what are the priorities; go to those sectors first and I, you know what? I say health care. There–you know, I go to my doctor's clinic, and you know what? It's awful because they're located in a building, it's not accessible. We should be saying to doctors, when you rent a space, let's do it. There are some difficulties in that there's not a great building stock. So, you know, there's all these issues we need to deal with, and when you're coming up with those regulations, you can do that.

Mr. Rob McInnes, Diversity World

I lived in the United States for over a decade and saw first-hand what real social change can be brought about by effective legislation. The Americans with Disabilities Act was not apologetic. It did not ask for change; it demanded it, and change happened. Those businesses and institutions that welcome change, welcomed the ADA and made changes. Those businesses and institutions that resisted change, opposed and resisted the ADA, and made changes. Welcoming or resistant, it didn't matter, they all made changes. The ADA was not designed to encourage change; it was designed to make change. Let's design The Accessibility for Manitobans Act to make change. . .

Justin Dart Jr. was the visible champion of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In his trademark Stetson hat, cowboy boots and wheelchair, he sat beside George Bush Sr. as the ADA was signed into law.
His vision for justice and human rights, however, extended well beyond the borders of the United States. Several months after the ADA was signed, I had the honour of hosting event in Toronto where Mr. Dart spoke to representatives from many of 'canadi'–Canada's leading corporations. In a profound speech that brought most of us to tears, he invited us to be bold, to seize the moments and make change happen.

Mr. Dart has soon passed–has since passed away, but I know that his invitation is still open to all

“Now, colleagues, the gravity of the challenges we face, the magnitude of our opportunity and of our responsibility, is almost beyond comprehension. There is a public passion for profound cultural change that is unprecedented in all human history. The historic window of opportunity will not remain open long. Our aggressive leadership can create a dynamic momentum for civil rights and empowerment in every nation. Our inaction, simply pursuing advocacy and rehabilitation as usual, could condemn hundreds of millions of 21st century humans to continued isolation, poverty and early death. We are responsible to generations of children yet unborn, in every nation, who have the right to live lives of quality. We must unite. We must struggle. We must love.” 
Quote from Justin Dart Jr.

. . . I envision a life–as I envision a life in a post-Bill 26 world, I hope that we will also see annual dancing in the 'manit'–in Manitoba streets. I hope that we will have found the courage and the resolve to give Bill 26 the strength that it needs to do its job. I hope that Manitobans will not look back on it as a once-made promise of better things to come, but as the signed, sealed and delivered gateway to a life of inclusion, equality, opportunity and protection.

Mr. George Pasieka, Canadian Mental Health Association, Manitoba Division

For people living with mental health issues, barrier-free looks differently. It includes reduction in stigma, access to appropriate supports and services and providing sufficient income and assistance for rent and food. Barrier-free also includes physical design. So as part of the physical design, sometimes people with mental health issues need to be considered.

Mr. John Ruppel, private citizen

I'm not sure of other countries, but there are certainly countries that are far more advanced than us, and the United States with their American disability act is one such country. I think it was about eight years ago that the United States president–the president of the United States, pardon me–was in BC and I was there and they talked about the differences they saw in Canada, and when they saw people with disabilities and deaf people not being accommodated, they couldn't–he couldn't believe that it was that much different here than in Canada–or, pardon me, than in the United States–and that's because of the power of the Americans with Disabilities Act that they have. So please I would like to see us have a bill that's strong enough to have the teeth that the ADA does.

Ms. Geraldine Sage, private citizen

Transportation is another problem for the blind. Of course, we don't drive. But we–the bus service, Handi-Transit, I just come from the country, had to move in for health reason, and no transportation out there to get in to my doctor's. The cost of the handi-van for about 60 or 70 miles was $240. Well, we can't afford that. So we need something for transportation for the–not just the blind but other people that can't drive either, but the blind for sure. In the city here, handi-van, as you've heard, is not too handy, and neither is the bus service, the transit system. If you're waiting for a bus and you're blind, you have to stand out in all kinds of weather and wait and ask each bus that goes by if that's your bus, eh, and you can't read the pamphlets they put out to see what your schedule is. The–I guess the handi-van is not handy in that, you know, like now I have to go home, I'm going to have to pay $20 for a taxi to go home. I can't travel at night on the buses; it's an hour or so in between, an hour at least in my bus.


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