National AccessAbility Week starts with a stall on Bill C-81 | National Union of Public and General Employees

National AccessAbility Week starts with a stall on Bill C-81

“Our union strongly believes in working toward the goal of a barrier-free country and appreciates the government’s commitment to an inclusive and accessible Canada.” – Larry Brown, President NUPGE.

Please take note of the update at the end of this story.

Ottawa (May 29 2019) – Bill C-81 has been delayed in the House of Commons after it returned with amendments from the Senate. Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough had tweeted earlier in the week that the government was planning on adopting all amendments from the Senate, however it was delayed after the opposition party questioned the language of the bill. The concerns were echoed by members from other parties, but all parties agreed that the legislation will pass before the summer break after improvements to make the bill stronger.

National AccessAbility Week

National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) is celebrated in Canada starting on the last Sunday in May. This year, NAAW runs May 26 to June 1. According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians face barriers around accessibility. As reported by CTV News, Angus Reid Global actually puts estimates much higher than one in five, citing that around half of all Canadian adults have or have experienced a physical disability or live with someone who has.

Nothing on the books

In 2010, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) but did nothing to bring Canadian laws into conformity with it. There is currently no legislation covering the rights of people with disabilities apart from the Canadian Human Rights Act. In November 2018, NUPGE President, Larry Brown, wrote to the Office of the Prime Minister advocating for Bill C-81 and urging the government to go even further by securing funding needed to implement infrastructure projects related to Bill C-81 – including those affected by invisible mental health disabilities.

“We are encouraged by the introduction of Bill C-81. The National Union believes more can and must be done to give persons with disabilities the respect and dignity they deserve,” says Larry Brown, NUPGE President. “Our union is actively working for a future where people with disabilities are able to enjoy the rights and opportunities accorded to all Canadians. However, this does not happen simply by removing the physical barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in our society, but it happens by eliminating all barriers—including all forms of discrimination. We know that discrimination against people with disabilities is compounded when they are faced with additional forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, classism and colonialism. We cannot talk about one without addressing the others.”

Disability rights are human rights

Separate from the delay of Bill C-81, the Government of Canada has committed $12 million to fund Phase II of the Ready, Willing and Able (RWA) employment program, a program designed to increase the labour force participation of people with an intellectual disability or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since its inception in 2015, RWA has reached out to over 8000 employers, and actively engaged with over 4000 of those employers to facilitate 2300 in 20 communities across the country. Announced on May 28, this 3-year investment will allow RWA to continue its work in connecting employers with individuals with an intellectual disability and autism seeking gainful employment in their communities and will continue breaking down systems barriers that keep this group out of the labour market.


As May 30 2019 Bill C-81 has now passed in the House with amendments from the Senate and is currently awaiting royal assent. 


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE


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