Canadian human rights legislation has not addressed a number of issues of systemic discrimination, that is, discrimination that is the unintended effect of a program, policy or law that otherwise appears to treat everyone equally. Because of this limitation, governments have had to introduce legislative measures such as pay equity and employment equity laws. An additional legislative measure is needed to prevent many of the problems being experienced today from continuing over the coming years. It is time for the Government of Canada to introduce a Canadians with Disabilities Act.
A Canadians with Disabilities Act is the complementary measure that can make the rest of the human rights legislation and government structures work for persons with disabilities. It is our assurance that a broad interpretation of their citizenship rights will be applied by the Government of Canada in areas that fall within federal jurisdiction.
The Act should provide for the appointment of a Minister with responsibility for disability issues, and should enumerate the principles and values to be embodied in the relationship between persons with disabilities and the federal government. To address disability issues in everyday government business, the Act could also require the federal government to set out the powers, duties, and functions of federal institutions, including private-sector organizations delivering public services, on disability issues. Because these activities would require a coordinated inter-departmental approach to disability issues, the Act should specify appropriate policy and program support and describe responsibilities. The Act could also establish an independent office with the power to monitor departments' compliance with the Act, report to the public, and advocate within government on behalf of the disability community. The legislation could also require the government to consult regularly with the disability community and to conduct specific studies.