In the lead up to the 2019 federal election, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and Reena hosted a federal candidates’ forum to raise awareness of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA). The ACA, also known as Bill C-81 passed unanimously in the House of Commons on June 21, 2019. The Actintroduces new accessibility legislation towards ensuring a barrier-free Canada in all federal jurisdictions.
“June 21 was a landmark day for the 6 million Canadians who live with a disability when House of Commons unanimously passed the Bill C-81. Their action sent a strong message of solidarity and commitment to remove and prevent accessibility barriers to everyone in the country who lives with a disability, but what we don’t yet know is how it will be implemented,” says Meenu Sikand, executive lead of equity, diversity and inclusion at Holland Bloorview. “The election period is an opportune time to hear from all parties on their perspectives and possible implementation and actionable strategies. It’s also a time for the disability community to educate on the issues that matter most and vote. ”
Over 80 clients, families, donors and community members were in attendance to learn more about the ACA’s far-reaching impact and implications. They also heard directly from some of Canada’s most prominent and renowned disability advocates including David Lepofsky, founder of the AODA Alliance and Rabia Khedr, human rights and accessibility expert.
Four federal candidates participated in this event, including:
Gary Gladstone (Liberal),
Laurel MacDowell (NDP),
Sarah Climenhaga (Green)
Ian Prittie (People’s Party of Canada)
(A written statement provided by the Conservative Party of Canada was read aloud.)
The candidates were provided an opportunity to discuss their party’s implementation potential plans for the ACA should they be elected to government and answer audience questions.
The evening began with a speech delivered by Holland Bloorview youth ambassador, Gavi who’s a Grade 4 student with muscular dystrophy and nemaline rod myopathy. Gavi shared her experiences with the attendees and expressed her vision of what an accessible Canada should look like. After her moving speech, David Lepofsky and Rabia Khedr took the stage to share their expertise around accessibility in Canada. The last hour of the event included a candidates' roundtable where all four candidates in attendance shared their thoughts on how to improve Bill C-81.
The roundtable was hosted by Fred Winegust, who handles stakeholder relations for Reena. In opening the roundtable, he highlighted the results of a survey that attendees filled in during event registration.
“The survey results, the attendee questions, and the candidates reactions to them, gave attendees and those following the livestream of the session, a real feeling of how the different parties would approach improving C-81,” says Winegust. “The survey also reaffirmed the fact that a lot more education is needed on both the ACA and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)."
The highlight of the roundtable was a commitment from each candidate, to go back to their leader and get a response to the letter sent by the AODA Alliance on July 18, 2019 about specific positions in support of the disability community.
Holland Bloorview is committed to creating a future with no boundaries for persons living with disabilities. We support the development of legislations and standards that allow for a barrier-free Canada for people living with disabilities.
We thank everyone who joined us on Sept. 25 and made the night successful.