Two Years of Progress for Inclusion and Advocacy

Two Years of Progress for Inclusion and Advocacy

Your Liberal Government is mid-way through its elected term. Despite the enormous fiscal challenges faced just two years ago, they are working hard to bring the province’s finances under control while taking measures to ensure the needs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are met, and their rights are respected.

Supporting Diversity and Inclusion

As part of their ongoing efforts to embrace and celebrate diversity, Government has adopted a policy allowing for a change of sex designation on a birth certificate from female or male to non-binary. During the fall sitting of the House of Assembly, amendments were made to the Vital Statistics Act 2009 removing the requirement to submit a statement from a medical professional prior to a change in sex designation for those 16 years of age and older. Children 12-15 still require a parent to apply on their behalf, and the consent of the child is also required.

The Liberal Government is committed to recognizing individuals with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions, and non-binary birth certificates are an important part of the effort.

Advocate Gemma Hickey with Minister Gambin-Walsh and Premier Ball.

Improving Accessibility and Equity for All Persons

Your Government is committed to safe and sustainable communities, and a key component is improving accessibility and equity. Amendments were made this fall to the Buildings Accessibility Regulations and the Designated Mobility Impaired Parking Regulations.

The amendments represent the first step in a two-phased approach to addressing issues around buildings accessibility. The second phase will be a review of the Buildings Accessibility Act.

The amendments to the regulations include:

  • Requirement for new and renovated buildings to have power door operators;
  • Fines increased to $400-$700 for illegally parking in a blue zone;
  • Requirement for van-sized accessible parking spaces;
  • Increased percentage of parking spaces required to be accessible;
  • Increased number of accessible units in an apartment complex with more than four units;
  • Requirements for improved accessibility in public washrooms; and
  • Clarification of counter height requirements to ensure counters in public buildings are accessible.

Government has also made historic changes to the provincial Wildlife Act and Regulations to provide more Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with the opportunity to share the experience and benefits of hunting.

Disabled angler. Photo: CBC NL

In addition to lowering the minimum hunting from 16 to 12 for small game and from 18 to 16 for big game, several changes have been made to the Program for Hunters and Anglers with a Disability, including:

  • A designated hunter can remain within 800 metres or line of sight, whichever is greater, of the person with a disability;
  • Restructuring the Problem Moose Policy for the 2018-19 hunting season to give priority access to big game for persons with disabilities not able to complete the Firearm Safety-Hunter Education Program; and
  • Development of a new policy to provide persons with disabilities priority access to moose put down by conservation officers for humane or public safety reasons.

Protecting Vulnerable Children

Minister Dempster announcing the proposed amendments to the Child and Youth Advocate Act.

Earlier this month amendments were made to the Child and Youth Advocate Act to allow for the mandatory reporting of child deaths and critical injuries to the advocate by the Departments of Children, Seniors and Social Development, and the Department Justice and Public Safety. The amendments are focused on these two Departments, given that they are responsible for providing services and/or care to some of the most vulnerable children and youth in the province. These Departments are required to report child and youth deaths and critical injuries involving those receiving services at the time, or within the preceding 12 months, to the advocate as soon as practicable.

These amendments were a collaborative effort of the Liberal Government, and the Advocate. The Child and Youth Advocate’s office has been lobbying for these amendments for years, and called the move a “significant development.”

Seniors Advocate Appointment

Premier Ball and Minister Gambin-Walsh announcing the creation of the Seniors Advocate.

Keeping an election promise to establish an Office of the Seniors Advocate, on November 8 Dr. Suzanne Brake was appointed as the Seniors’ Advocate, effective immediately.

The Office of the Seniors’ Advocate will work with seniors and other key stakeholders to identify, review, and analyze systemic issues; make independent recommendations; and promote awareness to the general public.

Dr. Suzanne Brake. Photo: CBC NL

Dr. Brake has a lengthy history of involvement in the area of aging and seniors. She has clinical, managerial, administrative, teaching, research and policy experience. In 2015, Dr. Brake was awarded the Canadian Association of Social Workers Distinguished Service Award. Her past work, volunteer experiences, education, personal involvement with family and her most recent role as Director, Seniors and Aging Division; and Provincial Director, Adult Protection, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, have prepared her to be the inaugural Seniors’ Advocate of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Making Progress

Your Liberal Government recognizes the importance of protecting and respecting the rights of all citizens. They will continue to be responsive to the people of the province to ensure legislation is progressive and innovative for all persons living in Newfoundland and Labrador.

These changes are not definitive. They will continue to fine tune policies and adapt legislation to ensure the protection of our citizens and that the dignity of all people of the province is upheld.

This is the second in a series of posts about the work the Liberal Government has started or accomplished in the last two years. Stay posted for more highlights and reflections in the coming weeks.