We would like to thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the work the CGSB is undertaking related to access to service animals and public access for people who use service animals. We also appreciate the invitation to comment on the draft national service dog standard which you are writing.
This is an extremely important topic for many persons with disabilities in all jurisdictions across Canada. As you know, we have been urging a human rights-based approach to this work. We believe a human rights-based approach should underpin the content of the standard and it should also frame the process used to develop it.
The CHRC attended the 6th meeting of the Technical Committee as an observer to see how the comments from the public consultation were considered. The CHRC did not have the opportunity to read all of the comments, but we understand they covered all aspects of the draft standard including: mandate, scope, content and process. We see the public consultation as an extremely valuable part of the process and the volume of comments an indication that more work needs to be done.
We wanted to share with you our concerns, and we hope that the concrete recommendations we offer will be helpful. In general, we recommend that you revisit the process and the draft standard itself, to ensure a more human rights based approach.
The comments and recommendations we are providing (see attached) are based on the information currently available to us and may not be aligned with your current plans to move forward. We welcome any opportunity to learn more about your consultation and drafting process.
Once again, we thank you for the opportunity to offer our views.
We would welcome the opportunity to have a more fulsome discussion to help us fill in the gaps in our knowledge and discuss how the CGSB can better meet its human rights obligations.
Human Rights Promotion Branch
Canadian Human Rights Commission
Overall CHRC concerns
The CHRC has concerns that the process the CGSB has undertaken: has not sufficiently consulted, included, and considered the views of those persons with disabilities affected by the standard, and; will not produce a standard that protects human rights. Further, we are concerned that the process so far, and the draft standard?especially if implemented widely–could create, rather than remove, barriers for persons with disabilities.
Our specific concerns and recommendations are included below.
Specific CHRC concerns
Purpose and scope
The CHRC understands the draft standard was first developed for Veterans? Affairs with the goal of ensuring that Veterans have access to quality service animals and to provide assurance that the psychiatric service dogs being provided to veterans are properly trained and meet appropriate behaviour requirements. We support this work, which can improve the daily lives of veterans. We do not want to create a barrier or slow down the access to service animals for veterans.
However, while the CHRC has only observed one technical committee meeting, we feel that the community of service dog users/providers could benefit from a larger policy discussion to identify the scope of issues related to service dogs to explore whether, for example, standardization is the best solution to reach the goal. It is not clear, based on the information we have, whether other options to a standard were ever discussed. We also noted that the scope of the project appears to have changed and grown from its original focus, and has attempted to engage in standards discussions for wider populations.
The CHRC has also not received information that assures us that a rigorous policy analysis was undertaken to inform the process or the proposed standard.
As some of the stakeholders at the technical committee meeting suggested, the CHRC would recommend the CGSB pause to reflect and ensure the process undertaken is the right one to meet the goal, and that the standard covers the appropriate scope.
In light of this, we would make the following specific recommendations.
We recommend that, as was suggested by a stakeholder in the technical committee meeting, CGSB roll the scope of this particular standard back to its original and more focussed purpose. This could provide time for a larger policy discussion but at the same time allow the draft standard to be piloted for a specific population: veterans. In any pilot of the standard, we recommend that the standard be evaluated and reviewed with stakeholders within a year, using a human rights framework. It should also be re-assessed in the context of any broader policy discussions that may take place, and updated to align with any newer relevant standards.
For the larger policy discussion, the CHRC recommends that the CGSB situate this work more squarely within the broader government agenda to develop accessibility legislation to make Canada a more inclusive society.
To ensure that the landscape is more fully understood, the CHRC recommends that the CGSB undertake additional research and policy analysis and in particular, prepare a scan of the legal, regulatory, social, political, economic, jurisdictional, and technological facets of the issues that should be taken into consideration in developing a standard that is most helpful to remove barriers and support inclusion and equality.
We also urge the CGSB to work with ESDC and Veterans Affairs Canada to engage with the provinces and stakeholders to consider the scope of issues raised, the problems and barriers, and to explore all relevant possible policy solutions in the current context. This discussion should be accessible to a wide variety of stakeholders, be transparent and ensure that any next steps are not creating barriers for persons with disabilities.
Embedding human rights principles
The proposed draft standards, as they currently stand, do not reflect fundamental human rights principles articulated in the UNCRPD or domestic human rights legislation.
For example, the standards do not recognize that persons with disabilities have the right to use a service animal to assist them in functioning with dignity and independence in society, nor that persons with service animals have the right to access services and employment without discrimination.
It is the view of the CHRC that treating someone with a service animal adversely or refusing to accommodate them to the point of undue hardship could amount to discrimination prohibited under the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA). The CGSB must keep in mind that even if the standard is met, the standard itself may be discriminatory and furthermore it does not eliminate the duty to accommodate.
To ensure that any future standard is relevant and provides appropriate guidelines to government and members of the industry, the CHRC recommends that the CGSB refer to the purpose and principles of the UN CRPD and embed these more clearly and thoroughly in the draft standard and its process.
Participation of stakeholders and consideration of diverse views
The CHRC has concerns about the consultation process used to develop the proposed draft standards. The CHRC believes that it is essential that initiatives and standards such as these be developed with the full and meaningful participation of those who rely on service animals.
We recommend that CGSB more thoroughly review, consider, integrate, and respond to the concerns of stakeholders raised in the detailed submissions received.
We would recommend that CGSB specifically reflect on and respond to the submissions provided by: the Manitoba Human Rights Commission; Jim Menzies (Canadian Service Dog Standard: A Failed Process) and; the article by James A Kutsch (Additional Regulation Isn?t Necessary to Resolve the Issue of Fake Service Animals). These documents in particular, highlight some of the concerns we share with stakeholders.
We also recommend that the CGSB consult more broadly with stakeholders, and in planning these, reflect and reconsider these questions:
- How can a more inclusive process be undertaken that ensures diverse groups of stakeholders are around the table?
- How can the process support meaningful dialogue that considers intersectionality needs and supports persons in vulnerable circumstances?
- How is the CGSB ensuring the coordination/participation of all jurisdictions which is critical to develop a national approach?