The Federal Government has recently commenced a nationwide
consultation process with Canadians to inform the development of
federal accessibility legislation. Specifically, the government is
seeking input on the following:
feedback on the overall goal and
to whom would apply;
what accessibility issues and
barriers it could address;
how it could be monitored and
what else the Government of Canada
could do to improve accessibility.
Thus far, there is limited opportunity for public oral
consultation. Brief in-person sessions are taking place in 18
cities across Canada. These sessions began in September and will
continue through to November. A consultation schedule is available
here. Canadians may
also participate by submitting an online survey , or through social media .
Several provinces have already introduced similar accessibility
initiatives. Of these initiatives, Ontario's Accessibility
for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 ("AODA")
is the only in-force legislative accessibility regime. The public
policy rationales for the AODA parallel the federal
government's initiative, including:
the pursuit of equality;
the inclusion of persons with
the reflection of changing public
understanding of disability in society; and
the elimination of barriers to
accessibility for persons with disabilities.
In Ontario, the AODA is very broad in scope, applying to almost
every person or organization in the public and private sectors of
the Province of Ontario. Manitoba and Nova Scotia have also taken
substantive steps towards enacting accessibility legislation.
British Columbia is not yet at a legislative stage, but the
government of British Columbia has held public consultations
regarding accessibility issues, resulting in "Accessibility
2024", a 10-year action plan.
Other than the limited initiatives above, disability law is
generally otherwise confined to provincial building codes and human
rights legislation, which address disability-related issues as a
component part rather than as the primary focus of the statute. The
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms further guarantees
equal protection and benefit of the law to persons with
disabilities with respect to government action. Also, the
Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms operate in the federal sphere as a forum
for persons with disabilities to bring complaints of
While the federal government is not yet at the legislative
stage, it has set accessibility standards for federal buildings,
the Internet and workplaces. These accessibility standards apply to
federal government agencies and Crown corporations only.
Until a federal scheme becomes clear, it remains to be seen how
the federal government will integrate or ensure consistency with
already existing provincial accessibility legislation; the federal
government's constitutional ability to legislate over and above
the provinces' existing standards remains questionable.
Similarly, in provinces where accessibility legislation has not yet
been implemented, there exists the jurisdictional issue of whether
such a scheme will be confined to the federal sphere, and if not,
where the legislative authority for broader compliance measures
will be derived from.
The federal government's public consultation will be open
until February 2017.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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