“Approximately 15 per cent of British Columbians over 15 years old self-identify as having a disability. Our goal is to prevent and remove barriers so everyone can participate and feel included. This way, B.C. will be a better place to live, work and visit for everyone.” (Province of British Columbia, 2018)
According to the Province of BC website, we have committed ourselves to become a truly inclusive province by 2024 by implementing the following strategies:
- providing people of all abilities with the opportunity to fully participate in their communities
- challenging our attitudes and beliefs about disabilities
- recognizing the value and contributions that people with disabilities make to our workplaces, communities and economy
While these action items may support a stride towards an inclusive province over the next 6 years, I would ask, how will the Province of BC be held accountable to its commitments? What should people with disabilities do if these values of inclusivity are not upheld? I can say with confidence that, despite the good intentions of the Province, individuals with disabilities are often rendered voiceless in instances of discrimination. I would suggest that this is largely due to the arduous process involved in escalating a complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
The Province of Ontario has established an Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This Act provides Ontarians provides citizens living with disabilities with the option to pursue legal action against their discriminators other than going through a Tribunal process.
I am hopeful that the British Columbia Accessibility Act drafted in May 2018 will give British Columbians the same option. It is difficult to comment on the current content of this Act given that there has been very little progress made. However, I anticipate that its intention is to offer an additional avenue of recourse to citizens living with disabilities who have experienced discrimination. Such an Act may also provide the citizens of BC a measure of autonomy in their pursuit for equity and an opportunity to address their complaint via litigation. Hopefully, this would alleviate the pressure related to the victim’s responsibility to prove and present their case to Tribunal decision makers and make way for case law to preside based on individual circumstances.
The Province acknowledges that there is a significant number of British Columbians living with disabilities and that we should be working towards being a truly inclusive province. Therefore, I hope we continue to find ways support equity and diversity and hold those who do not align with this goal accountable.