Author: Janet

Bill C-49 Empowers Goliath and Takes Away David’s Sling Shot

March 15, 2018

Bill C-49, the Transportation Modernization Act, will make some aspects of Canada’s federally regulated transportation system more inaccessible than it already is for people with disabilities. Travelers with disabilities routinely encounter accessibility barriers, such as damaged or delayed mobility equipment, kiosks without audio output to make them accessible to blind travelers. If passed without amendment, Bill C-49 while adding new barriers will also make it harder for organizations like the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a national organization that has been working for more than 40 years in support of an accessible and inclusive transportation system, to take complaints in the public interest to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). “We are dismayed that Bill C-49 is introducing new barriers at a time when the current Federal Government is about to introduce accessibility legislation designed to make Canada more accessible and inclusive,” states Bob Brown, Chairperson of the CCD Transportation Committee.

Section 86.11(1) (f) of Bill C-49 increases wait time on the tarmac from 1.5 hours to 3 hours. For Canadian travelers with mobility impairments doubling the wait time will have critical negative repercussions. With no access to washroom facilities, it is common for air travelers with mobility impairments to dehydrate themselves prior to departure. For these passengers, this proposed increase in sitting time means pain, spasticity, pressure sores and greater dehydration. “As 1.5 hours is the international norm for allowable wait time on the tarmac, I am very puzzled why the Federal Government thinks doubling the allowable wait time is a good idea, especially considering the hardship it will cause travelers with some mobility impairments,” states Bob Brown, a wheelchair user and Chairperson of the CCD Transportation Committee. “I think this is an undue obstacle to the mobility of travelers like myself,” continues Brown.

With the current transportation act, an organization like CCD, could make a complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) about accessibility barriers and the CTA had the power to order a carrier to correct an undue obstacle to the mobility of a person with a disability. Indeed, the Supreme Court of Canada in Delta Airlines Inc. v Gábor Lukács just found it is unreasonable for the CTA to use a narrow criteria for determining which complaints can be heard. Bill C-49 through section 67.3 and the amendment to subparagraph 86(1) (h) (iii) introduces a new restriction upon the Agency. If these pass, the Agency will only act on written complaints from an adversely affected traveler. These reforms prevent public interest actions. Only under-resourced individuals, and not organizations like CCD, would have access to the CTA to fight against the barriers that persist in the federally regulated transportation system. With C-49 the federal government strengthens Goliath, the Canadian transportation industry, by limiting access to justice for those seeking to work in the public interest to correct accessibility barriers. Bill C-49 is taking away David’s sling shot.

On March 20, 2018, CCD will be appearing before the Senate Committee on transportation calling for the removal of these new barriers to mobility of persons with disabilities in the federally regulated transportation.

For more information contact:

Bob Brown, CCD Transportation Committee Chairperson

Tel: 613-562-0040