Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Canada's Building Code development process...it's broken

As a proponent of an active Code Change Request with Canada's National Building Code, I'm confident in saying that our building code development process is broken (federal and provincial/territorial). My Code Change Request 964 for VisitAbility of new dwellings was submitted on June 30, 2015 yet nearly two years later there's much left to be done by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes to even come close to considering it for their 2020 update. I shouldn't be surprised though because another CCR on dimensions of stairs took decades to complete.

Here's a prime example in Ontario. On January 1/15, Ontario Building Code section (5) started requiring 15% of apartments to be VisitAble (basic/cheapest/easiest form of barrier-free design features known globally). My research on issued building permits in the City of Ottawa has revealed a disturbing trend in loopholes to OBC (5) based on the fact that "apartment" isn't defined in the building code (nor is semi-detached, duplex, triplex, townhouse, or rowhouse), it's left up to the municipalities to define and enforce compliance for these different types of housing. What's happened in Ottawa is that a building (see photo) can be called a "stacked dwelling" to be exempted from the 15% requirement. I have also challenged the issue of 600 square meters of building area (6,458 sq ft) requiring compliance to section 3.8 for Barrier-Free Design but the Ontario Building Code definition of building area is broad enough to permit exemptions for that reason too. So either the OBC doesn't define housing types, or creates broad definitions that create exemptions, it's a mess that continues our shameful history of ignoring human rights in housing, even though our Ontario Human Rights Code is supposed to have primacy over our building code. I guess it's all rhetoric when home builders start their lobbying, always crying poor or complaining that it will kill off their industry (but it's ok to keep ignoring equality rights of persons with disabilities/activity limitations).

Check out the definition of stacked dwelling according to City of Ottawa zoning. "Independent entrance to the interior" doesn't seem to be the case for the building on the right because there are roughly 13 exterior doors for 19 units, some have a shared exterior door as the covered entranceways reveal in the photo above.
I emailed an Ontario Code Development Coordinator and was told the following:
My response today was the following:

"Ms Smith;

I'm confused by your email. You're telling me that I would need to submit a CCR, wasting countless public tax dollars, and wait until 2022 to possibly have "apartment" defined, something that should have already happened decades ago? To then further deflect it to the NBC, which would delay it even longer, leaves me questioning the millions of dollars that go into the code development process. I am speechless."

I shouldn't be surprised though, Ontario has continued with Tarion (our failed home warranty program) even though there's been a formal review of its many problems. Consumers have a lousy home warranty program, building code is being manipulated by municipalities to create loopholes to compliance, and Ontario seems perfectly content in ignoring the most basic element, defining what exactly an apartment is (and other types of housing). Without a clear definition of "apartment" in our building code, it's allowing a number of projects in Ontario to avoid compliance to OBC (5). 

There's even a video on YouTube about building code violations of accessibility requirements in a new building funded by public dollars, it's a disgusting mess that no one seems willing to acknowledge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRmVBmOy6xg&t=6s

I'm willing to provide specifics if anyone is interested, just reach out to me on social media and we can arrange it by email. I'm completely disgusted with the poor leadership shown in Ontario, a province that states that it will be fully accessible by January 1, 2025 (see https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/05a11). Housing, where all of us spend the greatest portion of any day, is apparently off-limits for an accessible Ontario. I guess our Human Rights Code is a hoax then, there's no right to Occupancy of Accommodation when our only dwelling type in Ontario that requires VisitAbility has seen quite a few "stacked dwelling" exemptions in Ottawa, it's simply ridiculous and unacceptable.
I suspect that I've provided sufficient proof that our code development process is broken, and that there's no desire to improve it apparently.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

UN Conference of State Parties, June 13-15, New York

As we approach the tenth Conference of State Parties pertaining to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, I view June 13th to 15th as a defining moment for the government of Prime Minister Trudeau. The mandate letter presented to Cabinet Minister Carla Qualtrough in November, 2015 spoke of greater accessibility and inclusion for Canadians with disabilities. Next week's COSP10 is an opportune moment to reinvigorate Canada's commitment made to the CRPD in our 2010 ratification; we must now announce the accession of the Optional Protocol and implement the many recommendations made on April 12th by the CRPD Committee. Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau guaranteed rights for Canadians with disabilities on April 17, 1982 with our Constitution Act and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, although those Section 15 rights were delayed for three years in Section 32 (2).

2017 is not only Canada's 150th anniversary but the 32nd anniversary of Section 15 rights for Canadians with disabilities yet we continue to see thousands of human rights complaints per year, as reported to the United Nations by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in their December 2015 report. Canada's public consultations for the accession of the CRPD Optional Protocol concluded on March 16th, which then opened consultations with the Provinces and Territories. Today marks 83 days of consultations, surely we can come to a conclusion by June 13th and announce our accession after 90 days of consultations with the Provinces & Territories, and seven years after the ratification of the CRPD.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a number of comments regarding diversity, equality and inclusion since taking office in November 2015, COSP10 will be a defining moment in his term to bring this to fruition. Continuing with status quo, with the thousands of human rights complaints per year, will erode his credibility with millions of Canadians with disabilities and with Member States that admire Canada for having been the first country to guarantee disability rights in a nation's Constitution. Prime Minister Trudeau must ensure that Canada's reputation on the world stage isn't tarnished any further, we must announce our accession of the Optional Protocol no later than June 15th. Anything less will surely put the prospects of a second term in question.