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December 24, 2010

Feds in penalty box again

Federal Court of Canada
I get a charge when a judge takes the government to the woodshed.  Similar minded folks will enjoy reading the judgment of The Honourable Mr. Justice Kelen of the Federal court.  He finds that 146 Federal Government departments have to make their websites accessible.  It is baffling that the Feds tried to defend the indefensible.  Section 15 of the Charter is crystal clear and the rule about website accessibility is their own rule.

The bottom line:

1.  This application for judicial review is allowed and the applicant is entitled to a declaration under section 18.1 of the Federal Courts Act that she has been denied equal access to, and benefit from, government information and services provided online to the public on the Internet, and that this constitutes discrimination against her on the basis of her physical disability, namely that she is blind. Accordingly, she has not received the equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on her physical disability and that this is a violation of section 15(1) of the Charter;
2.  It is also declared that the applicant’s inability to access online certain departmental websites is representative of a system wide failure by many of the 146 government departments and agencies to make their websites accessible. The failure of the government to monitor and ensure compliance with the government’s 2001 accessibility standards is an infringement of section 15(1) of the Charter since it discriminates against the applicant and other visually impaired persons;
3.  It is also declared that the government has a constitutional obligation to bring itself into compliance with the Charter within a reasonable time period, such as 15 months;
 4.  This Court will retain jurisdiction over the implementation of this declaration and the Court will resume its proceedings on the application of either party if necessary to ensure the effect of this declaration is properly implemented; and

5.  The applicant is a public interest litigant and is entitled to her legal costs including disbursements in the fixed amount of $150,000.

Gus Reed

ps Those heraldic beasts in the court's coat of arms are "Flying Sea Caribou".  They swim, they fly, they probably walk on their forelegs.  But even they can't get upstairs at The Five Fishermen.

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