Donna is pleased to share her news of the formation of a brand new entity, appropriately named the Chris Stark Advocacy Circle in honour of the late Chris Stark who passed on in June 2019.
Chris was probably Canada’s greatest advocate, and Donna will share with you further details in her next update.
For now the Circle has written its first letter, which you can read below.
Minister Carla Qualtrough
House of Commons
February 11, 2022
Dear Minister Carla Qualtrough,
The Chris Stark Advocacy Circle would like to bring to your attention a serious rift within the government Of Canada.
By way of this email, we would also like to introduce you to the Chris Stark Advocacy Circle. We are a group of concerned Canadians with lived experience and extensive advocacy and industry expertise dedicated to removing barriers for persons with disabilities through meaningful dialogue with key stakeholders primarily through well researched and pragmatic correspondence. This letter will be published on our website.
On July 11, 2019, the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) was enacted. It is one of a series of legislative rights for Canadians with Disabilities. Some other key legislations include the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Optional Protocol, the Constitution of Canada’s Section 15 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human rights Act, and the Employment Equity Act.
Although it has been over two and a half years since the ACA came into force, there still has not been an appointment of an Accessibility Commissioner nor a Chief Accessibility Officer. Even taking into consideration the trying times Canada and the world are undergoing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this inaction is unprecedented and reflects nothing but a lack of due diligence.
On December 22, 2021, nearly two and a half years after its inception, the ACA has its first regulation published in the Canada Gazette Part II. However, despite now having the regulation as a tool to address federal entities that are not in compliance, the lack of an Accessibility Commissioner or a Chief Accessibility Officer does not allow for the process of redress of non-compliance of Federal entities.
Along these lines Persons with Lived Experience are facing major issues with both the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). These agencies developed and made public the ArriveCan mobile application, after July 11, 2019, that did not engage the participation of Persons with Lived Experience in its design. As a result, it is not accessible as per the government’s adopted accessibility standards and the ACA.
Upon the ArriveCan mobile application being made public several individuals and member organizations of Persons with Lived Experience reached out to CBSA and a meeting occurred on September 15, 2021, to discuss the inaccessibility of this mobile application. However as of February 11, 2022, this ArriveCan application has not been adapted or changed to reflect the Government of Canadas recommended Accessibility standards and it remains inaccessible.
Hence, the Chris Stark Advocacy Circle would like you to be made aware that the CBSA and PHAC have deliberately and recklessly moved forward and put into place an application for Canadian Society that violates the Accessible Canada Act. This is very disheartening. If the Canadian government is truly looking to affect change in the way Canadians with Lived Experience are addressed and treated, then it needs to walk their talk and address this very serious violation of noncompliance.
Furthermore, the Canadian Gazette Part II clearly states that fines up to $250,000 per day can be issued for very serious violations of the ACA. Accordingly, a calculation of over $37 million dollars in fines would be afforded to each of the CBSA and PHAC for a timeframe of September 15, 2021 – February 11, 2022.
At this point in time, we are not suggesting that the Canadian Border Service Agency nor the Public Health Authority of Canada pay such hefty fines. However, we do believe these agencies should adhere to the laws of Canada and there should be public consequences for federal entities that deliberately and recklessly ignore the rights of Persons with Lived Experience and the direction and laws set by the Government.
Minister Qualtrough, the Chris Stark Advocacy Circle hopes that you will address this alarming issue as well as the appointment of an Accessibility Commissioner and the Chief Accessibility Officer. This is essential as we move forward with the rights that Persons with Lived Experience have gained under the Accessible Canada Act. Inaction on this matter will greatly harm the goodwill created between the Government of Canada and citizens with Lived Experience. Subsequent walls of mistrust will ensue, and it will be difficult to break them down should federal entities such as CBSA and PHAC continue to do unchecked business as usual.
We look forward to your response to our request and compliance in this matter according to the regulations of the Accessible Canada Act and to your inclusion of persons with Lived Experience in the process. Nothing About Us Without Us.
The Chris Stark Advocacy Circle
Advisory Circle: Leo Bissonnette, Robin East, Donna Jodhan, Lorne Mackenzie
CC: Chief commissioner CHRC