James L. Menzies
Because we have been silent on this blog for a couple of months, you might think things have been quiet at Canadian Guide Dog; but we have not been idle. Once our report, Canadian General Standards Board Service Dog Team Standard: A Failed Process, was complete, we shared the information with key decision-makers and influencers. For the record, here is a run-down of what we have been up to.
Government of Canada
We wrote letters to ministers within the Government of Canada to share A Failed Process, and to express our concerns with the CGSB process. Specifically, we wrote to the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Public Service & Procurement (PS&P), Veterans’ Affairs (VAC), National Defence (DND), and Sport & Persons with Disabilities (S&PD). We wrote to the leaders of both opposition parties and the specific critics from both opposition parties for each of the affected ministries. We also wrote to staff within PS&P and CGSB.
We received responses from the Prime Minister and the Ministers of DND and VAC, as well as staff from PS&P.
Overall, the message we received is that our letters and our report, along with those of many others, are being considered in the preparation of the next draft of the service dog team standard, which will be released for public comment sometime in 2018. Not very earth-shattering messages to receive from our government! The Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, Seamus O’Regan, seems to be the most responsive on the issue, and has encouraged continued engagement.
Of note, there was no response from Minister of PS&P, Carla Qualtrough, who is probably bogged down by the crisis with the Phoenix Pay System. Nor was there a response from the beleaguered Minister of S&PD, Kent Hehr, who is intent on either ignoring or actively snubbing all his stakeholders since being demoted to this portfolio.
Interestingly, we received no responses from any member of the opposition parties, despite sending letters and A Failed Process to ten of them.
In addition to correspondence, we had an interesting conference call with staff from the Office of Disability Issues within the Ministry of Employment and Social Development. They were polite and listened carefully to our concerns, promising to take them into account in any future interactions on the CGSB file, but we were disappointed by their strong defence of CGSB’s process, despite the evidence of process failure that was included in our report.
Provincial and Territorial Governments
We wrote letters to all premiers and related ministers within the ten provincial and three territorial governments to share A Failed Process, and to express our concerns with the CGSB process and how a national standard could impact the provinces and territories.
Setting aside the inevitable “auto responses” and polite acknowledgements, we have received responses from all provinces except Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, and we have not yet heard from the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.
The provincial responses fall into two camps. Mostly, they indicate that existing provincial legislation will continue to prevail, and if they use the CGSB work, it will only be as one piece of a broader consultative process. A couple of provincial responses indicate a lack of understanding of the issues – a willingness to adopt a national standard as a matter of course, simply because it is a national standard, and not recognizing that standards do not hold the force of law.
We also shared A Failed Process and had productive interactions with the International Guide Dog Federation. We believe they used the report in their subsequent participation on the CGSB committee.
During the preparation of A Failed Process, we made two “Access to Information” requests to the Government of Canada. We received a voluminous response from VAC (542 pages), and are beginning to work through it now. We still have no response from PS&P, which puts them in violation of the Access to Information Act – we will be following up shortly.
We also shared A Failed Process with Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California, since they had expressed an interest in the CGSB issue and were looking to make more information available to their Canadian graduates.
Where To From Here?
Although we have been quiet on the blog, we feel that progress has been made in raising awareness of our concerns and in preparing the ground for responding to the next draft of CGSB’s service dog team standard. We are not sure when that will happen; we will let people know as soon as we hear something.
For your reference, this is the link that Minister O’Regan gave us for when the next draft becomes available: Public Services & Procurement Canada – Draft Documents Available for Public Review .