Members of disabled community want N.S. accessibility legislation rewritten
Published Monday, November 7, 2016 7:44PM AST
It was supposed to be landmark legislation in Nova Scotia, but members of the disabled community say newly-introduced accessibility legislation should be completely rewritten.
Announced last week, the bill fulfills a Liberal campaign promise and follows years of public consultation. It’s a framework to create new, enforceable accessibility standards.
But it's fallen flat for many of those directly impacted.
“While we're very, very appreciative and happy that an act is in the works, there are a lot of flaws. A lot of things that need to be corrected,” said Pat Gates of the Canadian Council of the Blind's Nova Scotia chapter.
On Monday, speaker after speaker came before the Law Amendments Committee calling for a complete overhaul of the bill.
Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard calls the legislation “historic.”
“This is the overarching legislation that will frame the way forward for everything from the built environment to culture to employment,” Nova Scotia Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said on Wednesday as the bill was introduced.
But Dalhousie University law professor Archie Kaiser believes the bill is weak and falls short of similar legislation in Ontario and Manitoba.
“It doesn’t adequately protect and advance the human rights of persons with disabilities in Nova Scotia,” he said. “It does not go as far as other comparable provincial statutes.”
The new law calls for economic impact studies before implementing any new standards. Advocates say that unfairly pits human rights against finances.
“Any other community that was fighting for their equal human rights would not accept having them talked away because they're a financial issue,” said advocate Paul Vienneau.
The law amendments committee has decided to effectively press pause on the bill.
In response to the criticism, Bernard says government will take the unusual step of allowing the committee to continue hearing from the community over the coming months.
“I think that's democracy at work, and that's what law amendments is for – so that people can come in who are stakeholders,” said Bernard.
It's not clear when the bill will be ready to go back to the legislature. It will not be passed this session.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Sarah Ritchie.