Significant new role for the CHRT under the Accessible Canada Act

On July 11, 2019, the Accessible Canada Act (the “Act”) came into force, creating significant new duties and functions for the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

The new law aims to ensure that everyone in Canada can fully participate in society. To do so, it requires federal organizations to proactively identify, remove, and prevent barriers to accessibility for persons with disabilities.

The Act applies to federally regulated organizations such as: Government of Canada departments; Crown corporations; the Canadian Forces; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; as well as private federally regulated companies like airlines, broadcasters, and chartered banks. These organizations will be required to create and publish accessibility plans and to meet standards that will provide guidance on accessibility requirements.

Anyone who is negatively impacted by a contravention of the new regulations will have the right to file a complaint. The Act creates new structures and roles to deal with compliance and enforcement, including a new Accessibility Commissioner who will be part of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In addition, the Act provides a new mandate to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to decide appeals when either the complainant or the regulated organization disagrees with a decision made by the Accessibility Commissioner. The Tribunal is actively building capacity to be ready to fulfill this appeal role.

Other federal organizations, namely the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board will have distinct enforcement powers under the Act.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal will work together with the other federal agencies responsible for enforcing the Act as part of the Council of Federal Accessibility Agencies. We are all committed to referring federal accessibility complaints to the right organization and to fostering complementary policies and practices. This will minimize the burden and confusion for complainants.