Mr. Bruce Halliday (Oxford):
Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to be able to participate in this debate on Bill C-78.
I would like to begin by expressing my extreme pleasure at the process we are going through here today. I think this represents parliamentary tradition at its best; namely, where the government brings in legislation and
the opposition parties take their time to express the shortcomings of the bill without obstructing it. I want to congratulate all of my colleagues on the opposition benches who were willing to see this bill go through the three stages later day in a fairly rapid process.
It is an indication that the needs of the disabled community in Canada are appreciated by people from all sides of the House, regardless of which party one happens to belong to. That kind of feeling is well received by the disabled community which likes to think that all of us here in the House of Commons have some concern for their needs.
Having said that, I do not want to repeat what the minister said or what my colleagues on the committee, the members for Hamilton, Edmonton Southeast and Beaches-Woodbine in Tbronto, have pointed out.
All have indicated the shortcomings in the legislation. All of us on the committee are aware of that, accept that, and indeed, the minister would be the first to indicate more has to be done. I think more will be done.
I want to speak a bit this afternoon about the history of the committee, what has been achieved in the recent past, and put the present bill into that context, indicating the course we will be moving on in further aspects of this in the years ahead.
Members will recall that in the short life of the Clark government in 1979, a decision was made to institute a special committee on disabled and handicapped persons. The decision was taken but the committee never got off the ground before the election was called.
Subsequent to the election in 1980 the then Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau established the special committee on the disabled and handicapped which, under the very capable chairmanship of Mr. David Smith from Toronto, gave us excellent leadership in coming up the following year, in 1981, with a report called Obstacles.
That report, with 130 recommendations, set the base line and the standard for what was needed by the disabled community. The acceptance of that report by people in Canada who knew the field and by people outside of Canada was such that the report went through
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three printings. There was a great demand for that report.
I have to add that the member for Beaches-Woodbine and myself are the two remaining members in the House who were on that special committee so we do have a special interest. I am sorry he is not with us today. He has other commitments in the riding and his presentation was ably taken care of by his colleague from Churchill.
In the same year that we reported, the UN denoted it as the International Year of Disabled Persons. In response to that, Canada established a special committee, as I have indicated, on the disabled and the handicapped which identified the key obstacles faced by people with disabilities in Canada and outlined practical actions to overcome these obstacles. These were identified in the committee's report entitled Obstacles which as I say had about 130 recommendations in it.
The year 1982 began the UN Decade of Disabled Persons which by the way we just celebrated the close of a month ago in Vancouver. At the same time the Government of Canada included persons with a physical or mental disability in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That was a major step forward in the movement toward full equality for all Canadians.
Among industrialized nations, Canada alone has included in its Constitution a clause which states:
Equal protection and equal benefit of the law without
discrimination based on mental or physical disability.
As the decade moved on Canada progressed along with the thinking and the changes that took place. In 1983 we note one of the key recommendations from the Obstacles report, was that the Secretary of State be designated minister responsible for the status of disabled persons.
This was a significant shift because it moved disability from being a health issue to being one with a citizenship perspective and that was very significant for the concerns disabled persons from Canada had.
In 1984 the Canada Labour Code was amended to ensure that people with disabilities were paid no less than the minimum wage.
In 1985 there was also a movement to protect the rights of people with disabilities. The Canadian Human
Rights Act was changed to remove discrimination on the basis of disability whether mental or physical.
The Prime Minister's declaration on the Decade of Disabled Persons was also made in 1985. It was based on the work of federal and provincial representatives setting out a number of principles to guide government activities. This declaration is viewed as a bill of rights by disabled persons.
I draw special attention to principles 5 and 6 which declare: "Individuals with disabilities shall be assured access to fundamental elements of daily life that are generally available to the community" and goes on: "Persons with disabilities shall be encouraged to engage in all aspects of society and to participate in social change to fulfil themselves and to meet their obligations as citizens".
In 1986 the Employment Equity Act came into effect making the economic integration of disabled persons with disabilities a priority for Crown corporations and approximately 375 federally regulated employers. Also in 1986 the government established the Federal Contractors Program, the Transportation for Disabled Persons Program and the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program. Each of these programs were designed in consultation with disabled Canadians to deal with disability questions.
In 1987, following Rick Hansen's Man in Motion world tour, the government declared National Access Awareness Week an opportunity for communities to assess the level of accessibility and plan for and make changes in the five key areas of transportation, housing, recreation, education and employment.
Over 850 communities now participate in this National Access Awareness Week which, by the way, was just completed for this year at the end of this past week.
A standing committee of the House of Commons was established by all-party agreement in that same year with a unique mandate to examine and encourage greater efforts by all Canadians in advancing an agenda that addresses all aspects of disability.
I should say that the terms of reference as laid out in the House of Commons rules are very interesting because they give the mandate to the committee in four areas, namely, to propose, to promote, to evaluate and to monitor. These are four areas of work that other
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standing committees do not have. It is interesting that we have this for this particular standing committee.
Now we have the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons as a permanent committee that consults persons with disabilities on an ongoing basis and makes recommendations to Parliament.
In 1988 the National Transportation Act was altered to give the National Transportation Agency the authority to issue regulations improving accessibility to federally regulated airlines, railways, bus systems and ferry services.
In June 1989 the standing committee released its report entitled A Consensus for Action, which called upon the government to work together with all sections of society to ensure the integration of people with disabilities.
In 1990 Environment Canada through the Canadian Parks Service began a comprehensive program to make national parks and historic sites accessible for persons with disabilities. Statistics Canada announced that it would carry out a post-sensal survey on disability in 1991 in order to establish a national database on disability related issues. Public Works Canada further announced a program to upgrade and improve accessibility to Crown owned and leased property.
In 1991, recognizing that people with disabilities have expenses related to disability, the federal government introduced new tax measures. These include modifying the disability tax credit and the medical expense credit.
Bringing us up-to-date, in the federal 1992 budget, eligible expenses were expanded once more and new deductions were added to the list of deductible expenses for disability related modifications to businesses.
Much progress has been made in removing the barriers to enable persons with disabilities to participate more fully in the community, but a great deal has been indicated here this afternoon and more remains to be accomplished. That is why in September 1991 the Prime Minister announced the launching of the National Strategy for the Integration of Disabled Persons here in Canada.
This five-year strategy involves financial commitment of over $158 million and addresses such issues as access to employment, training, housing, transportation, communications, public sensitivity and community integration.
This strategy is a unique partnership of federal departments and agencies working with the disabled community to achieve the goals of equal access, economic integration and effective participation. The five-year national strategy will enable Canadians with disabilities to participate more fully and more fairly in the work force in their communities and at home.
This omnibus bill, as it is called, Bill C-78, is a legislative proposal and is just one more step in our efforts to make equality a reality for Canadians with disabilities. It is part of our agenda for progress, bringing Canadians together to remove the barriers to full integration. It will create a greater awareness of disability-related matters and provide opportunities for new partnerships that will permit Canadians with disabilities to take their rightful places in the mainstream of the life of the nation.
In conclusion, as we reflect on the progress made during the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, we look forward to the next decade of new ideas which will make full participation in Canadian society a reality for everyone. I do want to finally say that I think members of the House are right in supporting Bill C-78. The members of the disabled community in Canada want us to support that bill but, at the same time, they want the standing committee, this House and the government to move ahead in coming years to make even more effective changes that will enable disabled people to be more fully integrated into society in Canada.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: AN ACT TO AMEND CERTAIN ACTS WITH RESPECT TO PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES MEASURE TO AMEND