Minutes of the Board of Director’s special meeting – May 7, 2020


Members of the Board of Directors (the Board)

  • Me Paul-Claude Bérubé, Chairperson
  • Mary Reid, Vice-Chairperson
  • William Adair, Director
  • Kory Earle, Director
  • Maureen Haan, Director
  • Penny Hartin, Director
  • Rabia Khedr, Director
  • Brad McCannell, Director
  • Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Director
  • Laurie Ringaert, Director

Accessibility Standards Canada staff members

  • Philip Rizcallah, Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  • Michelle Demery, Chief Operating Officer
  • Heather Throop, Senior Advisor
  • Collinda Joseph, Chief of Staff
  • Christina Richard, Manager, Communications
  • Maggie Saunders, Acting Manager, Governance and Reporting
  • Gavin Scharfe, Analyst, IT-Administration
  • Lorraine Trudel, Coordinator, Governance and Reporting
  • Matthew Zic, Senior Program Advisor, Standards Development (Observer)
  • Graham Spero, Analyst (Acting),Stakeholder Engagement (Observer)


Thursday, May 7, 2020

1. Welcoming remarks and roll call

The meeting opened at 1:30 p.m. with a roll call and words of welcome from the Chairperson.

2. Board meeting agenda

Most regular items are presented in this agenda along with a few pressing items.  Other items which are postponed because of COVID-19 will be discussed at the next face-to-face meeting.

10-1  Motion presented and seconded to approve the agenda. 

Carried by all.

3. Minutes of the Board meeting

Document 3A:  Minutes of April 6, 2020

10-2  Motion presented and seconded to approve the minutes of April 6, 2020. 

Carried by all.   

It was mentioned by the Chairperson that minutes are normally published online on the Accessibility Standards Canada website 30 days after they have been approved by the Board of Directors.  For now, this is not possible as the web team is prioritizing items related to the pandemic.  They will be published online when possible.

4. Chairperson’s update

The Chairperson informed Directors that he, along with the CEO and Collinda Joseph, met with representatives from Public Services and Procurement Canada.  They discussed their respective responsibilities as they look forward to exchanging accessibility information as material becomes available from Accessibility Standards Canada. 

The Chairperson, the CEO, Board Director Laurie Ringaert and staff representative Collinda Joseph also met with representatives from the organization “Barrier Free Manitoba”. The exchange was positive and provided an opportunity to share information about Accessibility Standards Canada’s work.  The Chairperson has also scheduled a Zoom call with a group in Victoria, British Columbia, for the following week.

The Chairperson, the CEO and the Vice-Chairperson also discussed the importance of the Accessibility Policy and encouraged all Board members to be involved in the development of this document. The nature of the document will be discussed during today’s Board meeting. There will also be discussion about “plain language” to address all aspects of this issue to meet requirements for this organization and for the population at large.

The CEO, the Chairperson and the Vice-Chairperson worked on the ‘’Board Effectiveness Tool’’ to be shared with all Board members once it is reviewed with the Governance Committee. The tool will encourage early discussion and support directors to arrive at Board meetings better prepared to approve items.  Another tool being prepared is the “Communication Protocol” which will be very useful to Board members, CEO and staff to improve communication.

The next two Board meeting dates are Thursday, June 4th at 1:30 p.m. and Tuesday, August 11th at 1:30 p.m.  Another date is being considered in July in case the Board of Directors need it.

5. CEO’s update

The CEO gave an update on the work being done at Accessibility Standards Canada on the following items:

  • Plain language:  Is important for the organization that all documents on the website are in plain language.  A staff member has been hired to do plain language revisions internally, among other responsibilities.
  • Communications from the office:  Every Friday, Board members will receive communications on important issues, actions and follow-up items. Urgent documents will be sent separately, as needed, and Board meeting information will be sent in the usual manner.
  • Stakeholder engagement:  The CEO is working with staff to put together a FPT framework as it is important to maintain relationships with provincial and territorial governments. 
  • Grants & contributions:  All 2019 grants were awarded. The Chairperson and the Vice-Chairperson will be informed prior to posting online.  Work has started on some of the projects.  Many applications for the 2020 to 2021 contributions program were received. Staff are reviewing these to ensure they meet all criteria and selections will be made in the summer. There may be some delay due to the pandemic. Some of the proposals that were received will touch on emergency measures during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be updated as more feedback is received.
  • Technical committees:  Work is ongoing; currently setting up and doing recruitment preparations.  Members of these committees will be provided with a per diem and a stipend as the situation warrants. As many as 12 technical committees could be active at a time.
  • Standards development: Organizations and various groups that work on accessibility fronts will have greater impact on some of the initiatives.
  • The CEO will make a presentation to the Board members on the Building Codes in the next few months. 
  • Provincial governments:  Process of meeting and engagement had to slow down because of COVID pandemic.
  • Hiring staff initiative:  Accessibility Standards Canada has reached 50% of its hiring goal and will have a full staff complement at end of the fiscal year.  Many qualified persons, particularly qualified persons with disabilities, have been hired.
  • Weekly meetings with government counterparts:  Discussions were held internally with recommendations to work on items related to COVID-19 without affecting present issues, tasks, and timelines.
  • Staff:  Everyone has been active with daily and weekly meetings and staff are working hard from home. Some responses may not be as fast, but the work is ongoing and everyone is being diligent.

6. Strategic Planning Committee update and interim strategic plan

Document 6A: Interim Strategic Plan - Priorities for 6-8 months

The document was revised by the committee to set priorities for the work to be done in the next 6 to 8 months; some areas may not be listed in this plan, but work could still proceed on them.  The interim strategic plan is to prioritize work under the current circumstances.  Accessibility Standards Canada is ready to pivot for recommendations coming from the Minister.  Staff will format the plan to make it more readable.

10-3  Motion presented and seconded to accept the Interim Strategic Plan as presented.  Open for discussion by Board members. Motion was accepted.

Carried by all.

7. Governance Committee update 

The Chair of the Governance Committee gave an update on its activities.  The committee supports the proposed contractor for the governance effectiveness training happening in the fall. The contractor will interview the CEO, the Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and send a questionnaire to all Board members, and will work in a manner that is accessible to all participants. 

The Indigenous Awareness Training preparation is going ahead.  The first formal training session is expected to occur in January 2021. The committee will follow-up with proposed learning opportunities in the meantime. 

The By-law document and all Board policy documents will be up for review in September. The Governance Committee will come up with a process for the review and will inform Board members in the coming weeks. 

8. External Relations Committee update 

Documents 8A and 8B: Briefing Note and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy

The Chair of the External Relations Committee informed Board members that the committee has met several times since the cancellation of the Annual Public Meeting (APM) to start planning for alternative ways of engaging with the public.  The committee also examined the processes involved in engaging with the provincial and territorial stakeholders.

The staff developed a framework for engaging with stakeholders identified in the 12 categories.  The documents are presented to the Board for information, and all input from Board members will help the organization to move forward.

The focus is now on the first two tactics of the strategy.  The first one involves engaging with stakeholders to set up the technical committees. Plans are ready to go forward once the COVID-19 government restrictions are lifted. The second tactic looks at ways to engage with stakeholders in the absence of the APM such as email communications, round tables through Zoom or other accessible platforms.

The CEO and the Communication team will look into accessibility of documents in their original form for screen readers and to learn to master the language that needs to be consistent for screen readers. It is important to use Windows English and to find out how the letters are coded. Ms. Ringaert has experience in this area of alternative communication platforms with the various options available and she is willing to share these with the staff and Board.

9. Standing Committee Membership Change

Ms. Mary Reid presented her resignation from the Strategic Planning Committee.  

10-4  Motion presented to accept the resignation of Ms. Reid from the Strategic Planning Committee. 


Carried by all.

There is now a seat available for a member of the Board of Directors to fulfill this position on the committee.  

10-5  Motion presented to nominate Ms. Rabia Khedr as a new member of the Strategic Planning Committee.  


Carried by all.

10. Standards development update

Work is underway and soon the organization will be ready to launch the technical committees.  New staff has been hired and many have already started work at Accessibility Standards Canada.

11. Accessibility Policy 

The Vice-Chairperson who has worked with a staff member on this policy reminded Board members that the draft copy of the Accessibility Policy was distributed to all Board members in April and she looks forward to presenting feedback at the next Board meeting.  This evergreen policy will apply to Board members, staff and to all committees. 

As changes were made to the document, the values outlined in the document were inserted up front. The topic of diversity was also inserted into the introduction, and additional information was added to several sections related to technology. The document has also been changed to include information regarding people who are deaf-blind and individuals who have episodic disabilities. This new presentation makes for a stronger document as we want this to be a policy we can carry forward and make our work accessible to Board, staff and the population at large. The document will be made available in plain language. Board members who had not responded are to send in their feedback in the next few weeks. 

12. COVID-19 Disability Advisory Committee

In order to respond to the needs of the disability communities during COVID-19, Minister Carla Qualtrough created the ‘’COVID-19 Disability Advisory Committee’’ and three Board members of Accessibility Standards Canada were appointed to the committee: Ms. Maureen Haan, Ms. Rabia Khedr and Mr. Bill Adair. 

The Advisory Committee members meet weekly. The committee met with the Minister of Health. At the moment, the focus is on areas of needs, such as:

  • Public communication and accessibility:  recommendations are made to the federal, provincial and territorial governments to ensure that communications are available and accessible to people with disabilities. More work will be done on a set of recommendations based on input from people’s experiences and other countries who have experienced difficulties and successes relating to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Collaboration with provinces & territories: issues surrounding disability and health information will be shared very soon
  • Finance and employment: will look into how to help people with disabilities maintain employment and how to provide funds to those in need;
  • Support for not-for-profit organization: look into ways to support these organizations during this crisis
  • Support for population with highest, at risk groups:  look into intersectionality of disability groups and those who are most at risk

13. Other Business

The Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson contacted the CEO following the May 4th Board meeting for CEO assessment.  There was mention of all of the elements that the Board recommended and all comments were well received by the CEO. 

Until further notice, the Board of Directors will continue to have virtual meetings and the Chairperson encourages all Board members to share information with each other.

The CEO will provide an organization chart in a Friday mail out to Board members.  For the June Board of Directors meeting, the CEO would like to make a short presentation on Code Development and Standards Development.

14. Concluding remarks 

At the next Board meeting, the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee will present the prioritization of the goals for the CEO for the year 2020 to 2021 and other related information on the Board’s perspective on the CEO’s performance.  The committee will work in partnership with the CEO to establish these goals and report back at the June meeting for approval.

10-6  Motion to adjourn the meeting at 3:20 p.m.