Statements & Speeches

Funding for Equitable Library Access (Question Period)

March 16, 2021

Hon. Judith G. Seidman:  Honourable senators, my question is for the government leader in the Senate and is quite similar to the question Senator Wallin asked you earlier.

We know that this federal government is phasing out funding to two organizations that help Canadians with disabilities — the Centre for Equitable Library Access and the National Network for Equitable Library Service.

The cut will have, as she suggested, a devastating impact on the development and distribution of books in accessible formats for Canadians who are blind, have learning disabilities or who have physical conditions impacting their sight such as Parkinson’s disease.

The amount of funding being cut here is $4 million — a small amount in the Government of Canada’s overall spending. You have, I think, agreed to come back and let us know why the government cut this funding for Canadians with disabilities. My question is whether the government will reverse this decision.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. I can only repeat my commitment to find out about the cuts and to report back what I can as quickly as I can.

Senator Seidman: Thank you.

With the pandemic it’s even more of an issue. The National Network for Equitable Library Service says that the decrease in funding for the upcoming fiscal year will:

. . . further compound the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a disproportionate impact on those with disabilities across Canada.

Both of the organizations impacted by these cuts say the federal government’s decision was taken without consultation or any advance warning.

Senator Gold, could you tell us why your government did not consult with the Centre for Equitable Library Access and the National Network for Equitable Library Service? As well, could you tell us why they were not informed that their funding would be terminated during the ongoing pandemic?

Senator Gold: I will make all of those inquiries. Thank you.