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New ODA Bill 125
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ODA Committee Update dated November 7, 2001


Tories Try To Bring Bill 125 Forward for Second Reading Tomorrow November 8, 2001 - Government Fails to Give Disability Community Advance Notice To Attend

November 7, 2001

Late on Wednesday, November 7, 2001, word reached the opposition parties that the Ontario Government was planning to bring Bill 125 forward to begin second reading debate tomorrow, Thursday, November 8th. We confirmed with the office of the Conservative House Leader, Janet Ecker, that this was so. As of 5:00 p.m on Wednesday, November 7, Ms. Ecker's office could not confirm whether the bill in fact would be brought forward for second reading on Thursday. We were told that the government wishes to do so, but this depends on whether the printing of the bill could be completed in time. The final answer may not be available until sometime Thursday morning, mere hours before second reading debate would begin.

This creates a serious barrier for Ontarians with disabilities. On August 21, 2001, the ODA Committee wrote to Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson, asking the Government to give the disability community enough advance warning of these major events during the legislative process, so that persons with disabilities could make arrangements to attend. (See letter below.) We had asked for a barrier-free legislative process. It would have imposed no hardships or difficulties on the Government to have shown leadership by example in accommodating this reasonable request.

With this extremely short notice, it will not be feasible to arrange para-transit, or American Sign Language interpretation for those who might wish to observe the Legislature's proceedings tomorrow. In fact, we do not even know if there will be any proceedings tomorrow to observe. If there are any such proceedings, they will begin at around 3:30 p.m.

We very much appreciate the NDP's alerting us to this information when they learned of it today. On learning of this information, we notified the Liberal party which had not yet been told about this by the government. We appreciate the Liberal party's looking into this and confirming it for us as well.



August 21, 2001

The Honourable Cam Jackson
Minister of Citizenship
400 University Avenue, 6th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2R9

Dear Minister:

Re: Ontarians with Disabilities Act

We understand from your recent statements that you plan to introduce an Ontarians with Disabilities Act bill this fall and to have it passed into law before year's end. The Legislature's deadline of November 23, 2001 for the enactment of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act is fast approaching, and is only 94 days away.

We are writing to ask that the Legislature's process for considering your Ontarians with Disabilities Act bill be fully open, accessible and barrier-free for persons with disabilities. For example, we wish to ask that the public be given at least two weeks' notice of each of the dates the Ontarians with Disabilities Act bill will be before the Legislature for each of the three readings, debates and/or votes. As you are aware, people with disabilities in particular require significant lead time for appointments, because of limited transportation and other assistive services necessary for their attendance and full participation at such functions.

Further, we also wish to request that you hold public Legislative Committee hearings on your proposed legislation, providing at least four weeks' notice for preparation. We ask that these hearings be open, publicly accessible and province-wide. When we met your predecessor, Isabel Bassett, on October 22, 1998, she expressed the view that she was not opposed to public hearings. Later, it was reported in a Sarnia area newspaper, published March 15, 1999, that Minister Bassett supported the call for public hearings on Bill 83, your government's previous bill. Further, we can only conclude that the Premier also supported such a call when Bill 83 was before the House, when he wrote to us on November 25, 1998: "As the bill proceeds through the legislative process, there will be opportunities for input and amendments."

To date, your government has made no public announcements detailing intended contents of your forthcoming bill. Your recent ad hoc meetings with various individuals and groups do not preclude the need for accessible public hearings on your forthcoming bill, open to all.

In the spring of 1999, many individuals wrote to the Clerk of the Legislature requesting a chance to appear at public hearings on Bill 83. We would request that all applications received at that time now be applied to hearings on your forthcoming legislation. Also, new applications should be encouraged and accommodated so that all who wish to appear at these hearings are able to do so. We ask that your government provide for full debate on any amendments consistent with the 11 principles regarding the Ontarians with Disabilities Act adopted by the Legislature by unanimous resolution on October 29, 1998.

We understand that you also plan to introduce some amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code. We similarly encourage a public, accessible, barrier-free legislative process for any bill regarding the Human Rights Code, at least to the extent that it relates to an Ontarians with Disabilities Act and disability issues.

We would be pleased to discuss these requests with you, and to do whatever we can to help ensure a positive and successful legislative process.

Yours sincerely,

David Lepofsky, C.M.
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee



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