District of Sechelt has joined the Town of Gibsons in a regional accessibility committee, while the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) is set to confirm its participation and adopt the terms of reference at its July 27 meeting.
Coun. Alton Toth was appointed as Sechelt council’s liaison for the nascent Regional Accessibility Advisory Committee at the July 19 regular Sechelt council meeting.
While Sechelt’s last accessibility committee disbanded in 2018, the province has mandated that each municipality must strike an accessibility committee and create a plan to “identify, remove and prevent any barrier ‘that hinders the full and equal participation in society of a person with an impairment,’” by Sept. 1.
Town of Gibsons had established a transportation and accessibility committee last December as “a direct result of a comment” the youth representative on council, Colten Rockford, made at a meeting, Gibsons councillor David Croal relayed through the town’s communications department. That committee evolved into a proposal to create a Coast-wide iteration. So, the SCRD, Gibsons and Sechelt are banding together to meet the legislated requirement.
Each local government is to appoint a non-voting liaison and the local governments are to contribute staff support. According to the committee’s terms of reference, community membership is to be selected through criteria set out in the provincial Accessible British Columbia Act. “To the extent possible,” at least half of the members are to be individuals with disabilities, individuals who support people with disabilities or who are from an organization that supports people with disabilities. The membership is to “reflect the diversity of persons with disabilities” in the province, include at least one Indigenous person and reflect the diversity of B.C.
The committee is to have no fewer than five and no more than 11 members, according to the terms of reference.
Coun. Dianne McLauchlan pointed out that a Sept. 1 deadline for an accessibility plan is exceptionally tight, given the committee is just getting started. Corporate officer Kerianne Poulsen clarified that there are no legislated penalties for municipalities not meeting the Sept. 1 deadline.