Remarks from Chair and CEO, Scott Streiner, to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology - April 10, 2019

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It’s a pleasure to be here today, to briefly explain the accessibility-related mandate and activities of the Canadian Transportation Agency, the CTA, and to answer the committee’s questions.

The CTA is Canada’s longest-standing independent tribunal and regulator. We’ve been around since 1904. Our accessible transportation responsibilities date from 1988 and today, constitute one of our three core mandates.

Canadians use transportation services to get to work, see family, do business, enjoy travel, go to school, and obtain medical treatment. To the greatest extent possible, those services should be as available and easy to use for persons with disabilities as for persons without disabilities. That’s not a privilege. It’s a human right.

The CTA’s vision is for Canada’s national transportation system to be the most accessible in the world. That’s an ambitious vision. But we believe that in a country whose fundamental values include human equality, dignity, and inclusion, we should strive for nothing less.

We’re taking concrete action to turn that vision into reality.

On March 11, draft Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations were pre-published in Canada Gazette I. These regulations were developed by the CTA over two and a half years of consultations with disability rights groups, industry representatives, and other interested Canadians. They modernize and integrate two existing regulations and six voluntary codes into a single, robust, and enforceable regulation. The public comment period on these proposed regulations concludes today. We aim to review all the feedback, adjust the regulations as appropriate, and have them published in Canada Gazette II before the summer. Their finalization will mark a major step forward for travellers with disabilities.

But domestic regulatory reform, although essential, is not enough. Complementing these efforts is work we’ve undertaken, in concert with Transport Canada and Global Affairs Canada, to advance discussion of accessibility practices at the International Civil Aviation Organization. Air transportation, by its nature, often crosses borders, so it’s in the interests of both Canadians with disabilities and Canadian airlines that approaches to accessible air travel be as consistent as possible around the world. 

We’ve also convened a multi-stakeholder working group to examine how, beyond regulatory requirements, we can address challenges around the storage and transportation of mobility aids like wheelchairs on planes – challenges that are growing as mobility aids become larger and more technologically advanced. That working group has representatives of the disability community, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, mobility aid manufacturers, ground handlers, and governments from Canada and abroad. Its recommendations are expected later this year.

Finally, the CTA is getting ready to implement Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, if and when it’s passed by both houses of Parliament and receives Royal Assent. The Act would give us new tools to help advance the accessibility of the national transportation system, including expanded investigation powers, the ability to order compensation for pain and suffering as well as expenses incurred, and the authority to set up a participant funding program. The CTA is collaborating closely with the other organizations responsible for investigating and adjudicating accessibility-related complaints from Canadians – the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, CRTC, and Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board – to ensure well-aligned approaches and a "no wrong door" experience for persons with disabilities who want to submit complaints. We’ve already established a Council of Heads of Accessibility Agencies to drive and guide this collaboration, along with several joint working groups. We are collectively committed to ensuring a smooth and effective implementation of the Act, should it be adopted.

Thank you for inviting us today. We look forward to responding to your questions.

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