Remarks from Chair and CEO, Scott Streiner, to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, October 22, 2018
Check against delivery
It's a pleasure to be here today to provide an overview of the Canadian Transportation Agency's (CTA) accessibility-related responsibilities and activities as part of the committee's hearings into Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.
The CTA has been around since 1904 and is Canada's longest-standing independent, expert tribunal and regulator. In 1988, our enabling legislation was amended to add accessible transportation as one of our core mandates. As the Supreme Court of Canada said in a 2007 ruling upholding a CTA decision, "Parliament charged the Agency with the public responsibility for assessing barriers [because the] Agency uniquely has the specialized expertise to balance the requirements of those with disabilities with the practical realities…of a federal transportation system."
Ensuring that persons with disabilities are able to travel independently and with dignity is part of the CTA's DNA.
We all know that transportation services are integral to modern life, whether we're travelling to see loved ones, visit new places, or conduct business. As the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states, equal access to transportation services helps "enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life."
The CTA's vision is to make Canada's national transportation system the most accessible in the world. That's an ambitious vision, but we believe that in a country whose values include equality and inclusion, we should aspire to nothing less.
We're taking major steps to translate that vision into reality. Let me briefly highlight four examples.
First, in 2016, we established the CTA's Centre of Expertise for Accessible Transportation – which serves as the hub of activity within and beyond the CTA for all matters related to the removal of barriers to persons with disabilities in the national transportation system.
Second, following two years of consultation with disability rights organizations and industry, we're drafting new accessible transportation regulations that will integrate two existing regulations and six voluntary codes into a single, strong, binding instrument. The consultative process included multiple discussions with the CTA's Accessibility Advisory Committee, which has existed since 1990 and brings together representatives of 19 disability rights groups and the air, passenger rail, and interprovincial bus and ferry sectors. We hope to have the new accessible transportation regulations ready for publication in the Canada Gazette in early 2019.
Third, we've organized a multi-stakeholder forum and technical working group focused on the significant and growing challenges associated with the transportation and storage of wheelchairs and other mobility devices on aircraft. The working group's recommendations will be finalized by next spring.
Fourth, together with partners in Global Affairs Canada and Transport Canada, we've spearheaded efforts to give accessible air travel more prominence within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Our goal, in part, is to make sure accessible air travel is on the agenda when ICAO's triennial General Assembly is held next September in Montreal.
We're also getting ready to implement Bill C-81, should it be passed.
We're putting the pieces in place for the launch of a proactive education and compliance monitoring and enforcement program within 60 days of Royal Assent.
We're revising the standard wording that we apply to accessibility-related adjudications to reflect the language of Bill C-81.
And we've held discussions with the other implementation bodies – the CHRC, CHRT, CRTC, and PSLREB – to begin working towards coherent, well-coordinated, well-aligned approaches to delivery of our respective accessibility-related responsibilities.
Accessible transportation is a fundamental human right. The CTA is committed to ensuring that this right is realized in practice through clarity of purpose and concrete action.
I look forward to answering your questions.