Canada Appoints First Accessibility Commissioner to the CHRC
Americas, Misc., News, April 25 2022
The goal of a barrier-free Canada, one that is inclusive from the start, is at the heart of the Accessible Canada Act (Act). That is why the Government of Canada continues to implement the Act and is introducing strong measures to ensure this goal becomes reality.
Today, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, announced the appointment of Michael Gottheil as Canada’s first Accessibility Commissioner to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), effective May 9, 2022, for a term of 5 years.
Paired with the recent announcement on April 4, 2022, naming Stephanie Cadieux as Canada’s first Chief Accessibility Officer, these two historic appointments support the Government’s continued commitment to increasing the accessibility and inclusion of Canadians with disabilities.
The Accessibility Commissioner is a full-time Governor in Council (GIC) appointment, under the Canadian Human Rights Act on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice. Reporting to the Chief Commissioner of the CHRC, the Accessibility Commissioner will provide executive leadership and direction within their jurisdiction for the administration and enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act and its regulations. This includes:
- promoting compliance with the Act;
- ensuring that federally regulated organizations meet their accessibility obligations; and,
- receiving, investigating and ruling on complaints filed under the Act.
The Accessibility Commissioner will also advise and inform the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion and submit an annual report to the Minister, for tabling in Parliament, on their activities under the Act.
“Michael Gottheil’s vast experience in justice and human rights issues are a huge asset to Canada on our mission to become a more inclusive, barrier-free country. As Canada’s first Accessibility Commissioner, he will help the Government of Canada administer, implement and enforce the Accessible Canada Act. Mr. Gottheil’s leadership will ensure that the rights and measures outlined in the landmark Act are not just declarations, but that they become a lived reality for persons with disabilities in Canada.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough
“Building a barrier-free and accessible Canada means ensuring our laws and regulations are understood and enforced. Michael Gottheil is an outstanding choice for the position of Accessibility Commissioner and the important role he will play in enforcing and administering the Accessible Canada Act. This appointment marks a comprehensive step forward in advancing human rights in Canada.”
– Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, David Lametti
- According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, more than 6 million Canadians aged 15 and over (22% of the population) identify as having a disability, and more than 1 in 10 youth in Canada have one or more disabilities.
- The Accessible Canada Act came into force on July 11, 2019, and focuses on proactively identifying, removing and preventing barriers to accessibility. A major milestone of the Act was realized on December 13, 2021, with the coming into force of Accessible Canada Regulations that require federally regulated organizations to report to the public on their policies and practices to identify and remove existing barriers.
- The Act also established new structures and positions, including:
- the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, responsible for developing accessibility standards in collaboration with the disability community and industry;
- a Chief Accessibility Officer, to advise the Minister of Accessibility and monitor accessibility issues; and,
- an Accessibility Commissioner, to spearhead compliance and enforcement activities under the legislation.
- The Government is committed to open, transparent and merit-based processes for selecting GIC appointees, who play a fundamental role in Canadian democracy.
- In 2019, out of 1129 filed complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, disability was the most commonly cited ground of discrimination, representing 52 % of all complaints received.
- The Government is developing a Disability Inclusion Action Plan to meet the Act’s objective of realizing a barrier-free Canada. Its focus will be on reducing poverty among persons with disabilities, getting them into good quality jobs and making it easier to access federal programs and services while fostering a culture of inclusion.