Introduction

Webcast archive: Review of Canadian disability legislation – Ontario

This week we are reviewing provincial disability rights legislation in Ontario, and providing an update on the Lamb case.

Webcast archive: Review of Canadian disability legislation – Ontario

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck, Christian Debray, and Taylor Hyatt discuss:

  • Review of Canadian disability legislation: Ontario
  • Robyn Moro died by euthanasia in August

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.

REVIEW OF CANADIAN DISABILITY LEGISLATION: ONTARIO

  • This is the second part of our series on Canadian disability rights legislation. Today, we’re discussing the law in Ontario, known as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
  • The AODA was passed in 2005. It’s very similar to the federal proposal. Here is a list of everything it covers:
    • The AODA covers the activities of provincial and local government, non-profit social services, and private businesses.
    • Like the proposed federal legislation, the AODA discusses accessibility in hiring and recruiting procedures, as well as accommodating employees who return to work after acquiring a disability. Individual accommodation plans for employees, plans for emergency situations like evacuations, and reassignment of someone’s position within a company (i.e. if their disability status changes) are only mentioned at the provincial level.
    • Transit regulations describe accessibility measures for local transit and inter-city buses, streetcars, subways, light rail trains, and taxis within towns and cities. Accommodations include lifts, announced stops and priority seats. fares, booking, hours of operation, and eligibility standards for paratransit are also mentioned.
    • Access to buildings is managed through the AODA and the Ontario Building Code. The AODA primarily covers new buildings, and major renovations in public and private spaces. The Code is enforced locally by municipalities through building permits. It specifies the following accessibility features, as of 2015:
      • barrier-free common areas,
      • elevators,
      • visual fire and smoke alarms,
      • accessible washrooms,
      • accessible pools or spas, and
      • visitability of apartments. (They must have barrier-free access to the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, and living room.)
    • It should be noted that adjustments to existing buildings of any kind are not mandatory. Houses are exempt from every standard but the updated fire alarms.
    • The rules for public spaces talk about accessibility on outdoor trails, beaches, playground equipment, and picnic areas. Infrastructure like crosswalks, sidewalks and accessible parking fall into this category as well.
    • The standard for access to goods and services includes adapting store counter heights and sections of waiting room seating for mobility devices. There are also guidelines for serving customers who use service animals or personal support staff.
    • The information and communications section covers a lot of ground: accessible document formats, plus use of captioning, alternative and augmentative communication, plain language, and sign language. New and revamped websites need to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. High schools, universities, colleges, and libraries must offer accessible materials.
  • Compliance with the AODA is enforced through fines and annual reports about accessibility measures. All organizations covered by the AODA need to file annual reports, including privately-owned businesses. “Every person…guilty of an offence under [the] Act” can be fined.
  • An administrative director, appointed by the Deputy Minister for Accessibility, is responsible for reviewing annual reports to ensure a group has obeyed the law.  The director also sets and collects fines.
  • There are three levels of fines, based on whether the violations are minor (administrative issues), moderate (a lack of accessibility modifications), or major (a health and safety risk).
  • Projects managed by city councils – including preparation of reports, reviews of renovation and construction plans, and implementation of the Act on City property – should be discussed with a local Accessibility Advisory Committee.   A provincial Accessibility Standards Advisory Council has also been established by the Minister of Accessibility. The Council is responsible for consulting with organizations as they become compliant, creating resources for training and public education, and acting as a link between the provincial government and municipalities.
  • Government bodies and businesses with 50 employees or more must create, review, and update multi-year-plans for removing barriers. These plans must also be made public. Unfortunately, most accessibility policies and plans are not easy to find – a customer needs to ask for them or search online.
  • There is no procedure under the ADOA for a person to provide direct feedback to a business or agency they believe has violated the law.  The person must file a complaint with the Ontario Government, which will contact the business or agency on their behalf.
  • Overall, the AODA leaves a lot to be desired.  The law does not say much about access and accommodations for people with psychological or intellectual disabilities. And yet again, housing, health care, some recreation, and communications technology are left out.

SECOND PLAINTIFF IN LAMB CASE DIES BY EUTHANASIA

  • CBC News reported recently that Robyn Moro – one of two plaintiffs in a court case challenging the “reasonably foreseeable” death requirement of Canada’s euthanasia law – received a doctor’s help to die at the end of August.
  • Ms. Moro had Parkinson’s disease. She was allergic to many of the pain medications commonly used by those with the condition. Her request for euthanasia was originally denied in March because her doctor did not believe her death was “reasonably foreseeable.”
  • According to the CBC report, Ms. Moro’s doctor (Ellen Wiebe) refused to grant euthanasia requests from patients who were believed to have more than five years to live, based on statistical projections of the life expectancy of the named plaintiff in the Carter case. However, the physician changed her mind following an Ontario Superior Court ruling in June of this year in the case of AB v. Attorney General of Canada. In that decision, Judge Paul Perell stated that the “reasonably foreseeable” death standard does not require a person’s illness to be terminal. Nor does their death need to be imminent or likely to occur within a given period of time.
  • According to CBC, Dr. Wiebe calculated that AB, the subject of the Ontario Court ruling, might have lived another 10 years. This became her new limit. Since she believed Ms. Moro could not survive that long, Wiebe felt Moro was now eligible for euthanasia.
  • In the AB case, Judge Perell also said “reasonably foreseeable” death applies to a person “who is on a trajectory toward death because he or she: (a) has a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability; (b) is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and (c) is enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable and that cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable.”  This could be interpreted to mean that if you satisfy criteria (a) through (c), then your death is reasonably foreseeable and you meet criterion (d).
  • Even though Ms. Moro has passed away, she will remain a part of the case, assuming the court allows her husband to stand in for her, or relies on Moro’s written statements.
  • The other plaintiff is Julia Lamb, a woman with spinal muscular atrophy living in British Columbia. Although her condition is progressive, it is not terminal. Ms. Lamb is currently able to work part time and live independently with attendant services. However, she is afraid that a sudden decline in her condition will prevent her from breathing or eating independently and using her hands.