Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to speak to Bill C-81. I know that we have had a number of individuals who have spoken to this piece of legislation. Even with their criticisms of the legislation, there has been a camaraderie in the House to see it move forward.
One of the reasons I came to be a member of Parliament was to make sure that we were moving forward with legislation that would help those who are most marginalized and vulnerable in our society. I think this legislation does that.
Before I go on, I want to give thanks. We are sitting extra hours and it is almost 11 p.m. I want to thank the pages who are here, one of whom brought me some water which is most appreciated because I will be speaking for 20 minutes. I want to give a special thanks to the individuals who are giving the interpretation up in the gallery. I think that is really important and it speaks to one of the Senate amendments. I want to thank everybody here who is helping to ensure that this beautiful place, the West Block, operates in a fashion that allows us to continue this really important debate.
I want to thank a couple of people who are in the gallery, Nevin and Kyle. They have been with me this evening. They walked me over here. Speaking so late in this place, it could be a bit difficult for individuals to be here. They decided to come here with me tonight. I really want to thank them for being in Ottawa.
When talking about this specific legislation, Bill C-81, with members in this place and the other place, committee members, stakeholders, witnesses, all Canadians, it really speaks to what our democracy is about. It is about the ability for Canadians and legislators to come together to bring forward a piece of legislation that will allow everybody in Canada to feel that this country is more inclusive and that they see themselves in this piece of legislation.
It is not necessarily only individuals who have disabilities, but it is all Canadians who can be proud of this piece of legislation. It is a piece of legislation that will identify, remove and prevent accessibility barriers, level the unemployment gap and create more inclusive spaces for Canadians within the federal jurisdiction.
I want to applaud the government on this particular piece of legislation. Of course, I was a former member of the government and I appreciate this piece of legislation because it is not just about disabilities.
I have said on my Facebook page and my Twitter feed that I want Canadians, who are watching the individuals in this place from all across Canada, to pay attention to this legislation. It shows the leadership of Canada in this particular area. It shows that not only in the federal jurisdiction, but within workplaces, communities and schools, we need to make our spaces more accessible. We need to make them more inclusive. It is also a demonstration of the collaborative approach where we have hundreds of stakeholders who appear before committee and hundreds of stakeholders who have written in. Many people from my town of Whitby have written and I am going to take the time to name those individuals.
Often we see form letters or campaign approaches to writing members of Parliament. When we look at them and every one is exactly the same, we think that maybe those individuals did not take the time to research or look at the particular legislation when they were writing about. However, we have to look at this with a different lens, which I am happy to do. These individuals took the time to write to their member of Parliament to say that they wanted to ensure the proposed legislation was passed before the House rose. They wanted to ensure that their Canada include them.
I want to thank Thalia Liam Sang, Beverley Dooley, Shafaq Butt, Sylvie Boucher, Jacinth Spenler, Chris Gervais, Fiona Casey and Madison Taylor for taking the time to write me as their member of Parliament and to say that their Canada included them. Their Canada includes people who have disabilities. They want to be represented by their member of Parliament for Whitby. However, to be clear, this seat is a borrowed seat. I have said that I am not running again. I am contemplating whether I will run as an independent, but this is a borrowed seat. Therefore, this seat belongs to the people of Whitby, and I am responsible for ensuring their voices are heard. I am more than pleased to mention these names in this place.
As I have said, I have put this out on my social media platforms and a few people have responded. Dawn Campbell responded on Twitter and said that we needed to push the government.
Government members should not sit in their seats and feel comfortable. I have always said that when people come into my office, I should not feel comfortable. I should be very uncomfortable. The people of Canada and the people of Whitby hold the most powerful voices. They hold the most powerful tool to ensure their governments do what they want to see happen. Their votes are the most important tool they have.
However, Dawn Campbell wrote to me to say that she that digital accessibility was important. I sat on the INDU committee and listened to testimony of individuals who had visual impairments. They still get reports that are not written in Braille. It is 2019. How is that a thing in 2019 that a person could write to the Government of Canada and not get reports written in Braille? If any other constituency in the country were not able to access information from its government in a language that was accessible to it, it would be a little excited about that and would make some noise about it.
On that point, I want to applaud the Senate. For the people in Whitby and across Canada who are watching, one of the Senate amendments was to ensure this legislation would include the use of American sign language, Quebec sign language and indigenous sign language. I have to applaud the government for accepting the amendments. It ensures we have truly inclusive legislation. I do not want to throw shade on the government, but when we talk about diversity being our strength, it has to be more than just a checkbox.
People cannot look at the federal government and think that this is just about a check box. It is about actual active inclusion. Active inclusion involves ensuring that individuals with disabilities in politics, in business, in their communities have access to everything we take for granted on a regular basis.
For example, if a business is going on a company retreat and that retreat is not accessible to every employee, it make the person feel less included in the corporation. It makes those individuals feel like they do not belong. What happens with those individuals? They go to work one morning feeling 100%. When they go to the retreat and find they cannot access it, that feeling goes down to 80%.
I want to reference the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin who talked his son Jaden. I have the ability to speak in the chamber about the fact that our differences make us unique. The member did that quite eloquently today. I want to thank the member because it reminded us of the fact that our differences may make us unique.
When we go to our company retreat and it is not accessible for those with disabilities, how does that make one feel? How does that make one participate in meetings, or events or other circumstances around that business? I had the opportunity of being the parliamentary secretary for international development minister. It allowed individuals to give their full selves. They are allowed to raise their hands and say that it is not accessible. They are allowed to raise their hands and say that this is not appropriate. This place has the largest megaphone in the country. I want to thank the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin for his comments earlier today.
I also want to thank the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility. The member of Parliament for Delta had the opportunity to come to Whitby. While she was there, she said something really profound. It made me believe with my whole heart that Bill C-81 was not just paying lip service to people with disabilities, but was really trying to change the status quo, change the landscape of Canada around accessibility issues, not just in Parliament but in businesses, in communities and in schools across the country.
She said that living with a visual impairment had given her the tools to allow her to see what other people could not see. I want members in the chamber to understand this. The Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility is visually impaired, but her life has been built around the ability to see what others cannot see, because of that impairment. Her environment gives her the experience and the skills to talk about legislation like Bill C-81.
When others in companies talk about return on investment or talk in communities or schools, they are able to see things we cannot see. When we talk about making sidewalks more accessible for persons in wheelchairs, it is also making it more accessible for moms. I am a mom of three. It allows my child to ride up the ramps with the bike. It allows seniors to go up with their walkers. It makes communities better.
I would be remiss if I did not speak to one of the greatest organizations in Whitby, brought forward by the former member of Parliament for Whitby, the Hon. Jim Flaherty, the Abilities Centre in Whitby. It is an icon in our community, one in which individuals are not made to feel like they need to be accommodated by our community but are welcomed in our community. I am very proud of that place.
I also want to talk about a couple of other individuals in Whitby, Allyson Partridge-Rios and her husband Andy. They volunteered for me. They are great individuals. Alison has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and Andy has an acquired brain injury. Before I came here, I worked for 10 years. I had a company that was a health care-based research management firm. I was the co-chair of Canada's first epidemiology study around neurological conditions. I worked with individuals who had Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, brain injuries, cerebral palsy. I saw what these individuals could contribute to our community.
They contribute not a disability, but an ability to bring their experience to everything we do, to bring their knowledge, their experience, their insight to our policies, to our return on investment for our companies and to our communities. Alison and Andy wanted me to mention that this legislation would give them peace of mind. It would help ensure inclusivity and accessibility, while supporting each other with their diverse needs. We are discussing exactly that today.
I also want to mention an individual in my riding, Niki Lundquist. She has been a great supporter, a great friend and she has never ceased to speak out about issues that are important to the people of Whitby. She never ceases to speak out about issues that are relevant to ensuring our community is better-off.
I will take this last minute to speak for Nikki. Nikki wants to ensure this legislation passes. She wants to ensure we do everything possible to look after those in our community who are most vulnerable, ensuring they have the support of their government.
I will not have the time to speak to the Senate amendment about intersectionality, but my constituents have spoken to it. They have done so in a way that allows us to understand that as individuals with different intersecting identities move forward throughout our country, they are challenged. With the amendments, this piece of legislation would make it a more inclusive, a more accessible and a more Canadian place.