A bill aimed at improving the lives of British Columbians with disabilities is before lawmakers in Victoria this week but a provincial advocacy group is calling on the government to pause the process and consult some more with the individuals it will effect.
The Accessible British Columbia Act, also known as Bill 6, is currently scheduled for a second reading in the the B.C. Legislative Assembly. If passed, it will remove barriers and create accessibility standards throughout the province, which according to the B.C. government, would help 900,000 British Columbians.
But Disability Alliance B.C. is speaking out against the act, saying that it’s weaker than legislation in other parts of the country, and that crucial aspects of promoting accessibility have been left out of the bill.
“This bill, compared to some others across the country, doesn’t seem to have many teeth,” said Andrew Robb, staff lawyer for the organization.
No enforcement, no timeline
Robb, speaking Thursday on CBC’s The Early Edition, said the alliance has sent letters to every B.C MLA outlining its concerns, which include no timeline for creating and implementing accessibility standards and no enforcement mechanism to make sure they are being followed.
Individuals who feel a business or organization has not met accessibility standards will only be able to complain to the violator, as the bill in its current form has no formal complaint process, according to Robb.
“I’m worried that without some mechanism to enforce compliance, Bill 6 may end up as not much more than a statement of principles,” he said.
Robb said similar legislation in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia is more comprehensive, as is the national Accessible Canada Act.
According to Robb, the national act is reviewed every three years and the plan in B.C. is to check in every decade. This 10-year time frame, he said, could allow multiple governments to come and go without accountability.
The alliance is asking the province to pause the legislative process for Bill 6 and consult further with groups and individuals representative of the lives it is intended to improve.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity … but once the law is passed, it is very difficult to change,” said Robb.
The Early Edition8:29Why some advocates are speaking out against the Accessible BC Act