The Accessible BC Act Needs Teeth

Updated: Jul 17


What the Accessible British Columbia Act needs, writes Paul Caune, is some grizzly bear teeth


By Paul Caune

Executive Director, Civil Rights Now!

Producer, Hope is Not a Plan


May 25th, 2021


The BC NDP government's proposed Accessible British Columbia Act (ABCA) (Bill 6) will not remove the barriers that prevent disabled Canadian citizens from the full and equal participation in their society.


Why?


In the analysis of Andrew Robb, the staff lawyer at Disability Alliance B.C., and Isabel Grant, a professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law, at UBC:


“The biggest problem with Bill 6 is its lack of enforcement. There is no complaint mechanism requiring the government to respond to violations of standards. Impacted individuals may complain to the organization responsible for the violation, but there is no process for independent investigation. The government may hire inspectors to monitor compliance with accessibility standards, but without a complaint mechanism, how will inspectors know what to inspect?”


If disabled citizens can't use the ABCA to force the most powerful public, private and not-for-profit organizations in BC to be obey the ABCA, it's useless. When your civil rights are violated you need a shark, not a hug from a wanker wearing a pink T-shirt.


If disabled citizens can't use the ABCA to force the most powerful public, private and not-for-profit organizations in BC to be obey the ABCA, it's useless

Let's compare the proposed ABCA with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.


As reported in the Baltimore Sun (Dec. 16, 2020):


The Maryland Board of Public Works approved Wednesday a $360,000 settlement to a group of six inmates who alleged in a lawsuit that the state prison system failed to provide necessary accommodations to prisoners with disabilities.


The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore last year, alleged a culture of noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a pattern of discrimination impacting inmates with disabilities...


Officials have since taken “substantial measures to address ADA accessibility” at Dorsey Run Correctional Facility, said Latoya Gray, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, in a statement.


The department has tripled the amount of ADA-compliant housing space and reduced the number of bunks in each dormitory, Gray said. In addition, bunks designated for people with disabilities have been fitted with rails.”


President George H. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990


Disabled criminal Americans in prisons when Trump was the president had more leverage over powerful organizations in the USA than any disabled Canadians living in their own country right now. And the ABCA isn't going to change that because it has no teeth.


Both the Greens and Liberals referred to the DABC's objection to the lack of enforcement in the ABCA during the Second Reading. But none of the proposed amendments to the ABCA by Lib MLA Stephanie Cadieux to be debated on May 31 would give it teeth. (MLA Cadieux's proposed amendments can be seen here.)


And surely both parties could get their own lawyers to analyze the proposed ABCA. And if they have, the first thing any competent lawyer would point out is “The biggest problem with Bill 6 is its lack of enforcement.”


Disabled criminal Americans in prisons when Trump was president had more leverage than any disabled Canadians living in their own country right now.

So why haven't the BC Liberals proposed an amendment to give the ABCA an effective enforcement mechanism? As Colin Andrew Ford's 2013 documentary Hope is Not a Plan about the civil rights of disabled Canadians constantly emphasized: a right without a remedy is no right at all.


The publicly available facts forced me to conclude that neither the NDP nor the Liberals want the ABCA to have an effective enforcement mechanism. But they both want our vote in the next election.


Did any of the disability organizations who endorsed Bill 6 on the day it was tabled in the legislature even read it? Why would they knowingly endorse a law that's as toothless as an amoeba?


Imagine ten years from now if this law is passes as is, and some disabled citizen tells a powerful organization that what they're doing contravenes the ABCA. How's the organization going to respond? They'll just roll their eyes and sneer, “Gimp, where do you think you are, a prison in the States?


MLAs Dan Coulter (right) and Nicholas Simons (left) introducing the Accessible BC Act


In the Second Reading, the MLA who tabled Bill 6 Nicholas Simons, the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction stated:


“I think the fact that we have tabled this legislation and that we have highlighted it as a symbol of how we hope our province to be shows people, who may not have had the same optimism, to maybe have a little more optimism.


To those who may have a cynical view of government, I hope it’s slightly less cynical. For parents worried about their children with disabilities, I hope it gives them some comfort that, in fact, we are establishing rules that will make the quality of life of their child better.


The freedom and dignity of the hundreds of thousands of disabled Canadians citizens who live in BC will not be protected by hope.


Why?


Because hope is not a plan.


What will remove the barriers that hinder disabled citizens full and active participation in our society? What will protect our freedom and dignity? An ABCA with Grizzly Bear teeth.

Winner of numerous awards for his unflagging advocacy, Paul Caune is the Executive Director of Civil Rights Now! and producer of Hope is Not a Plan, a documentary about the civil rights of disabled Canadians.