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Webcast: Videos and transcripts of the Panel Discussion, December 3, 2008

Introduction by Mr. Ralph Manning and Mr. Ian E. Wilson


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--- Beginning of the presentation

MR. MANNING: Good morning, everyone.

My name is Ralph Manning, and I am still, I understand, the manager of the Initiative for Equitable Library Access.

I am really pleased to have the honour of convening today's event. Library and Archives Canada is proud to be able to mark this special day the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Year 2008 marks the coming into force of the International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, an agreement that Canada signed in April 2007.

This year is also the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The United Nations' theme of this year's international day is "Dignity and justice for all". So, in this year that marks the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the 60th anniversary of theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights, we are delighted to offer the opportunity to our distinguished guests to speak about some of the significant developments affecting Canadians with disabilities.

Now allow me to invite Ian E. Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, to say a few words and introduce our distinguished guests to you.

--- Presentation by Mr. Wilson

MR. WILSON: Thanks, Ralph. Hello, everyone. Welcome.

For my minister, who is the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and for all Library and Archives Canada employees, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you here this morning.

I guess what I wanted to talk about this morning is coalition.

--- Laughter

MR. WILSON: It's a word that has taken on a new meaning this week. But let's talk about coalitions.

Coalitions with Library and Archives Canada, with Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, with the Canadian library community, working with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, working with many other groups that represent those print disabilities, working with publishers and Canadian print media. It's a coalition to support, to assist, to enable all Canadians to have equitable access to our print heritage.

For those of us who take the gift of sight for granted, it's very hard to imagine what it might be like not to be able to simply pick up a book and read it, either because of a vision problem, a learning disability or the inability to actually hold a book.

Yet, for 10 percent of Canada's population, 10 per cent of our fellow citizens, who have print disabilities, the lack of accessible books in formats that work for them means this simple freedom is often denied.

The freedom of a child with a print disability to talk about the latest Silver Wings saga with his or her classmates at the same time they are reading it, or even to talk about the differences in hockey sweaters and the importance of those differences to a young child growing up in Quebec...

--- Laughter

The freedom of a college or university student to spend more time learning and less time trying to track down books in a format he or she can read. The freedom of an older person, often isolated, to broaden their world through the books that they are choosing. The freedom to read the daily newspaper when it comes out. The freedom to have more books than there is time to read. Just imagine.

All of us are grateful to the former minister of Canadian Heritage Josée Verner and to her successor James Moore for their support to enable this initiative to move forward and to enable the consultations to progress.

We have several distinguished players who have been very active in the development of the original Task Force which made the recommendations leading to the Initiative for Equitable Library Access.

We have Mr. Herie, one of the co-founders of this initiative. We have Mr. Justice Hugessen, the former chair of the Task Force with us. Welcome. I would like to welcome as well Jim Sanders, the current head of CNIB, and André Vincent from Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

But here as well we have – and I am delighted to say, a close friend and colleague, one who is a founder of the Task Force on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians, one who continues with his involvement as honorary chair of the Database for Adult Literacy, one who frankly helped establish this institution, Library and Archives Canada, some years ago, and with whom we worked closely in creating this institution to provide leadership and direction for a whole range of activities in both the library and archival communities across Canada, a distinguished author, former president of the Canada Council for the Arts, former Librarian of Canada, Mr. Roch Carrier.

--- Applause

--- Presentation by Mr. Roch Carrier