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Ontario Government's
New ODA Bill 125

posted February 5, 2002



January 31, 2002



We hope you are all enjoying a well-deserved rest after last fall's frantic
pace of ODA activity. We plan to swing into action with a new Action Kit in a
couple of weeks. However we wanted to update you in the meantime on great new
ODA media coverage. This coverage helps sustain our momentum even when we take
that well-deserved break, and rest up for the next phase.

Below you will find:

* The January 21, 2001 Toronto Star editorial which talks about the inadequate ODA as one indication of our need to gain ground on the battle for equality.

* An "Op-Ed" or guest column in the January 28, 2002 Oxford County Sentinel Review. January 28, 2002 by Bette Jones.

* A letter to the editor in the January 24, 2002 Kitchener- Waterloo Record by Cathy Vincent Linderoos

* A letter to the editor in the January 13, 2002 London Free Press by Mary Dancey Clarke

* A letter to the editor in the January 7, 2002 London Free Press by Shirley Van Hoof

* An article in the University of Toronto Law Faculty newspaper "Ultra Vires" from January 2002 by Mindy Noble and Pauline Rosenbaum.

* An "Op-Ed" Column in the December 20, 2001 Toronto Star by Barbara Turnbull, and

* A translation of an article which appeared in Korean in the Korea Times, a Korean Canadian newspaper, on November 7, 2001.


Toronto Star
January 21, 2002

Disabled losing ground in battle for equality

Canada's Charter of Rights states clearly that "every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."

Real life doesn't work that way.

There has always been a gap between what the law says and what actually happens. What is frightening, for the 4.6 million Canadians with disabilities, is that it is getting wider - and no one seems to care.

Three recent cases have highlighted that trend:

- A lawyer representing the immigration department told the court this month that Ottawa had every right to turn down a disabled woman's request to live and work in Canada.

Angela Chesters is married to a Canadian citizen, has two post-graduate degrees and extensive work history. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 11 years ago.

According to federal lawyer Debra McAllister, Chesters might someday impose an "excessive demand" on Canada's health and social services.

This is not discrimination, McAllister insisted. It is a legitimate way of ensuring the sustainability of medicare.

- Last week, VIA Rail Canada, a government-owned corporation, refused to widen the doors of its new high-speed trains to accommodate wheelchairs.

"We'd be looking at millions of additional dollars" to modify the French-made rail cars, explained company official Malcolm Andrews.

He maintained that the narrow coaches meet industry standards and accommodate some types of wheelchairs. That is good enough for VIA.

It is not good enough for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. The non-profit agency has pleaded with the government to intervene.

Transport Minister David Collenette, to whom VIA Rail reports, has been silent on the issue.

- Last month at Queen's Park, Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson announced with great fanfare that Ontario had just passed "Canada's most far-reaching legislation" for persons with disabilities.

Unfortunately, the 1.6 million Ontarians with disabilities didn't see it that way.

The bill didn't eliminate any of the barriers they faced in their daily lives. It didn't set a date by which public buildings had to be accessible. It didn't require stores, restaurants or businesses to become accessible at all.

They begged the government to strengthen the bill before passing it. Jackson blithely ignored them.

These sorts of rebuffs hurt. The lack of any public outcry hurts even more.

It is tough to fight for equality from a wheelchair, especially when many of the country's courtrooms are inaccessible.

Despite the courage and determination of those who do challenge discriminatory treatment, individuals with disabilities are losing ground in Canada.

The reason is simple: Public officials think it is safe to ignore a vulnerable, not-very-visible minority.

It is up to able-bodied, fair-minded Canadians to let their governments know that it is not safe, not acceptable and not right.


Oxford County Sentinel Review
January 28, 2002

How committed is government to the disabled?

I read with interest the column written by MPP Ernie Hardeman on Jan. 18, 2002.
He stated that health-care funding has been this government's number one
priority and yet I received a letter from Cheshire Home Care of London stating
that some services would be cut off, such as grocery shopping as a full-time
job, meal preparation and respite hours due to lack of funds. It is, and always
has been my understanding that it was less expensive to keep people in their
homes than to institutionalize them, not to mention the effect on the people
who may end up in institutions.

I also read that this government had passed Canada's broadest legislation for
people with disabilities in passing The Ontarians with Disabilities Act. What
exactly has this act done for us? It adopted 1 of the 11 principles proposed by
the ODA Committee and recognized brain injury as a disability. It mandated that
all newly-built government buildings be made barrier-free. As I see it, that
gives us two things -- it can possibly but not probably give us a job if we are
qualified and we can pay our taxes. All structurally-renovated government
buildings can be made barrier- free but all that takes is the premier's
signature and does not have to be mandated. The other thing mandated was the
$5000 fine for parking in a handicapped parking zone. This sounds great but
what they failed to say was this nor anything else applies to the private
sector. If the $500 fine had been enforced in the public and private sectors,
that would have been sufficient. There is an accessibility advisory council
being set up with no time frame given from a letter I received from Cam

Why is this council even necessary?

I attended by invitation only back when the then minister of citizenship was in
office along with about 25 other organizations representing the different
disabilities. We were asked to present and submit proposals regarding the
barriers for the disabled. These meetings were held all across Ontario. How
much more information do they need and what was done with all those proposals?
If they were read, they certainly would not have come up with this worthless
ODA. Mike Harris would not meet with the ODA Committee. Does this tell us
anything? I watched with disgust as our own MPP, time after time, held up his
hand to defeat the very amendments proposed by the opposition that would
benefit the disabled the most.

Hardeman, of all people, should understand our frustrations after accepting a
challenge to be disabled made by myself as the founder and spokesperson for
Coalition ROAM (Remove Obstacles to Access and Mobility) in 1997. His remarks
included not knowing how we could ride these contraptions, referring to the
scooters, how good it felt to get up and stretch his legs after only 6 hours of
a day in a wheelchair and scooter and the fact he did not make it to a washroom
because there was not one he could get into.

If this is Canada's broadest ODA legislation, then the Harris Tories have
looked to the wrong country for their model as many countries in the world have
disability legislation that totally surpasses this act.

Bette Jones


Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Thursday, January 24, 2002
Letter to the Editor

Give them a home

I found Frank Etherington's Jan. 19 story about quadriplegic Rocky Boyd,
Quadriplegic Calls Cramped Motel Room Home, to be balanced, fair and
well-researched. Repeatedly, we learn that the crux of a serious problem Boyd
and others are facing is the shortage of affordable, barrier-free housing for
people with disabilities. Repeatedly, we learn that Ontarians are paying with
their taxes for the unnecessary barriers to people with disabilities. People
with disabilities and their supporters are telling their stories to the
newspapers in the desperate hope that the government will be embarrassed into
finding solutions.

What, we should all be asking our MPPs, will be any different for people with
disabilities on the waiting lists for housing now that we have an Ontarians
With Disabilities Act? How will the government make good on its claim that the
new act will put people with disabilities in "the driver's seat" on the road to
a barrier-free Ontario?

Given that the government ignored most of our excellent recommendations for
amendments to Bill 125, and that the new bill does not require the private
sector to do anything, I fear that the answers are no closer at hand than they
were before Dec. 14, 2001.

Cathy Vincent-Linderoos
Member of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee,


London Free Press
January 13, 2002
Letters to the Editor

Seniors bear brunt of under-funding

I read with interest the letter from Shirley Van Hoof (Access centre cuts the
latest crisis, Jan. 7) concerning the Ontarians with Disabilities Act,
especially with regard to being allotted one bath or shower per week.

Nursing homes have the same criteria. Last summer was extremely hot and humid.
Many of us showered at least once a day and went about our business in an
air-conditioned environment. Many seniors, paying to be looked after, did not
have the same advantage. When I asked about this, I was told that was all they
were allowed under funding by the Ministry of Health.

I wish I could quote Health Minister Tony Clement on the reasons why, but he
has yet to answer my letter from last July.

Unless you have a loved one in this situation, the general public has no idea
about health criteria in nursing homes. Sadly, we will all be in this situation
some time in the future. Think about what living conditions you would want,
especially if you have no alternative due to no fault of your own.

Mary Dancey Clarke


London Free Press
Monday, January 7, 2002
Letters to the Editor

Access Centre cuts the latest 'crisis'

Regarding cutbacks in service by the local Community Care Access Centre (CCAC).

While the Ontario government is bragging about Bill 125, the Ontarians with
Disability Act (ODA), and how persons with disabilities will be treated with
dignity, persons under their care at home are only allowed one bath or shower a
week. If they are incontinent, they are allowed two. No assistance is given for
sponge baths in between or for housekeeping, including laundry. There are other
changes, such as decreased nursing visits, but lack of the ability to bathe
daily is the biggest insult to our dignity.

The ODA was supposed to prevent new barriers, but these changes to CCAC service
are the biggest barriers to be erected in years.

Quadriplegics, 97-year-old patients (post-hip replacement), persons with
multiple sclerosis are all subject to these new unreasonable guidelines. Since
the 1980s all of these people would have qualified for assistance with personal
care as well as housekeeping and laundry. Now, few qualify.

Funding is frozen at last year's levels while more and more people need the
services, from those prematurely discharged from cash- strapped acute care
hospitals to the increasing numbers coping at home with the frailties of age or
disability. The CCAC has little choice but to chop services to those still on
the rolls and to refuse to add new people to their rosters as they are being
discharged from hospital or who need help to stay in their homes.

It seems the government deliberately crippled community-care access centres by
freezing funding and making it illegal for them to incur deficits. It seems as
if the ploy, "We must create a crisis," is being used again.

Shirley Van Hoof


Ultra Vires - A Student Newspaper at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law
January 2002

Proposed Ontario Disabilities Act Deficient
by Mindy Noble & Pauline Rosenbaum

The Ontario government has introduced a bill on equality for people with
disabilities that is akin to old Swiss cheese: stinky and full of holes.

On November 6, the government finally introduced the legislation that Mike
Harris had promised in his 1995 campaign. After more than six years of
government stalling and broken promises, Ontario Citizenship Minister Cam
Jackson introduced Bill 125, "An Act to improve the identification, removal and
prevention of barriers faced by persons with disabilities," commonly known as
the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In the public gallery were many Ontarians
who have lobbied for this legislation for years, including the chair of the ODA
Committee, David Lepofsky. This bill was the first in Ontario's history to be
provided to the Legislature in Braille, audiotape, electronic disc and large
print formats.

According to the government, the bill aims to ensure for persons with
disabilities "the right to lead lives with dignity and quality, justifiably
seeking the same rights to experience the same fullness of opportunity,
experience and participation as all other members of our Society." The public
portrayal of the bill suggests an increased emphasis on collaboration and
consultation with persons with disabilities across the province, so that
diverse experiences, needs and abilities can be represented in public policy.

In addition, the bill aims to ensure that provincial and municipal governments,
as well as all public sector employers and service providers, plan for greater
accessibility and equity for persons with disabilities. All of these measures
could serve to break down attitudinal and physical barriers that are currently
impeding participation and equality for persons with disabilities.

Bill 125 could be an important step towards equality in Ontario. The right to
participate in civic, economic and social life is fundamental for all
Ontarians. Removing barriers to restaurants, movie theatres and shopping malls,
providing accessible and affordable public transportation - these measures not
only benefit those persons who use wheelchairs, guide dogs, or other aids. They
also assist many other members of society, such as parents with strollers,
people with shopping carts, and the elderly.

However, the bill as it currently stands does not accord with the goals
articulated by the Minister. One of its deficiencies is that it is not
retroactive. Moreover, the standards of accessibility are vague. And, the Act
does not address barriers in the private sector. The bill allows for the
development of regulations in this area, but places no obligation on the
government to do so. Finally, the bill requires that a plan be developed by
ministries, municipalities and public service organizations and agencies, such
as those dealing with transportation. However, it does not require
implementation, and contains no enforcement mechanism or time limit.

The ODA process and product stand in stark contrast to the Americans with
Disabilities Act. Over a decade ago, that legislation mirrored the goals of
barrier removal in transportation, employment, housing and communications. The
ADA includes enforcement mechanisms, includes deadlines for changes in the
public and private sector, as well as fines for those companies or service
providers who fail to comply with its requirements.

"By contrast," writes Helen Henderson of the Toronto Star, "Ontario's proposed
law is a masterpiece of waffling. It sets up no mandatory changes, no deadlines
for accomplishing anything, no means of enforcing anything. For the most part,
responsibility for bringing any ideas to fruition is downloaded on to

Aside from these substantive lacunae, the legislative process itself left much
to be desired. Not only was this legislation over six years in the making, but
its introduction and subsequent proposed "consultation" showed a blatant
disregard for the expressed needs of the community affected. The government
announced second reading without even one day's notice, ignoring how difficult
it is for people with mobility or sensory impairments to arrange to get to the
legislature. Arrangements need to be made well in advance, for example for sign
language interpretation, appropriate child care, accessible transportation via
Wheeltrans or taxis, and to get Braille or large-print copies of relevant
documents. Moreover, the quick public consultation announcement specifically
went against the request for 3 weeks' notice put forward by the ODA Committee.

The government claims that this bill is the beginning of the consultation
process. That is not good enough. The consultation should be over; the removal
of barriers, with legislated compliance and timelines, should have been
implemented by now. Recall that Mike Harris first promised this bill in 1995.
Recall also that about 3 years ago, the Tories introduced and withdrew a
three-page, small-print bill on disability that was not worth the paper it was
printed on.

People with disabilities in Ontario deserve much more than these thin and
flimsy guarantees. The introduction of this bill was the government's
opportunity to show Ontarians that they are committed to ensuring that people
with disabilities are treated with dignity and respect. Instead, after six
years of promises, the government has created a bill that is so full of gaps
and so lacking in any enforcement that it suggests a reluctance, if not
refusal, to acknowledge and promote full societal integration and participation
of people living with disabilities in Ontario.


Toronto Star
Thursday, December 20, 2001
Don't blame the victims
by Barbara Turnbull

I love movies and I love to see them in theatres.

That is why I launched a human rights complaint against Famous Players in 1993.
I use a wheelchair and, at the time, it was operating 10 downtown theatres -
not one of which was accessible. Over the years four other disabled people also
launched complaints that challenged both physical and attitudinal barriers,
after suffering humiliating and appalling experiences at various Famous Players
theatres throughout Toronto.

Over these eight long years, as we persisted with this battle, things have
changed. New multi-screen, high-tech - and more accessible - movie complexes
have opened. At the same time, Famous Players has been closing its smaller,
older theatres, so that the only inaccessible venues remaining were the
Backstage, Uptown and Eglinton.

In the case of the Uptown and Eglinton, they are arguably the city's two
best-loved cinemas, steeped in history and grandeur.

Three months ago, an independent adjudicator ruled against the cinema chain,
giving it three months to implement a plan that would make its theatres
accessible to everybody.

Last week, the plan Famous Players filed was to close all three theatres,
causing a reaction that was swift and unforgiving toward "selfish" disabled

Some folks are under the mistaken impression that any film shown at an
inaccessible venue can be seen at an accessible venue, which is not necessarily
the case. The company continues to use these theatres for glitzy premieres - as
it did this past Monday night for an exclusive screening of The Shipping News.
The screening, a fundraiser for PEN Canada, was open to able-bodied members of
the public.

According to the Human Rights Code, businesses should be wheelchair accessible,
unless they show undue financial hardship for making themselves so.

During this whole process, Famous Players has never said it couldn't afford the
renovations - a legal defence under the code. It refused to disclose financial

And I highly doubt the company would now disclose how much it spent fighting
this complaint for eight years. It hired a senior partner from one of Toronto's
most prestigious law firms to head its legal team on this matter.

The hearing alone stretched over 26 days. That does not include preparation.
That money could have gone a long way toward renovations.

Famous Players made it clear it is focusing on new theatres and that the older
ones have been losing money. The company admitted as much two years ago, saying
it would have closed these theatres anyway - just as it has closed most of the
other small theatres it was operating, even ones that had been made accessible.
That was the business decision the company made.

Rather than facing the public's anger over the announced plan to close these
venerable landmarks, Famous Players appears to have preferred to channel the
public's hostility toward the disabled complainants. It must be recognized that
the decision of the Ontario Human Rights Commission to require these changes
was based on due process, in response to legislation that has existed since the

In fighting for an effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act - one that would
set standards for these kinds of changes to be made gradually - many people
have argued that people like me should not have to go to these lengths to fight
barriers one at a time. They argue that effective legislation encompassing the
private sector would in fact create a landscape whereby all business owners
would eventually provide barrier-free business environments.

My experience proves that they are right.

A fair hearing decided that Famous Players is wrong, yet I am still denied

Here's a cruel irony: We were first victimized by the denial of access to these
theatres. We were then victimized by subjection to an eight-year process to
vindicate our rights. Now we face a backlash because the public is left with an
unfair impression that we are to blame for these theatres closing.

Famous Players should erase the impression that disabled people are to blame
for its business decision.


Korea Times
Wednesday November 7, 2001


In the province of Ontario, if a certificate for parking in a spot reserved for people with disabilities is lent or counterfeited, the maximum fine is 50 times increased.

This bill was presented in a meeting of the provincial legislature ... It applies only to provincial government buildings so its actual effect is questionable.

In the Province of Ontario, if a driver without a disability parks in a spot reserved for a driver with a disability and is detected, whether it is his fault or not, a $5000 fine must be paid.

The Ontario Citizenship Ministry presented a disability issues bill in the Ontario Legislature on November 5, 2001, to increase parking violation fines and create a committee to focus on disability issues. If this becomes law, then if one parks in a spot reserved for a disabled person, or lends or counterfeits a certificate, there is a fine of $500 to $5000. Until now, if one parked in a spot reserved for a disabled person, the fine was $ 100. If one did not stop at a cross-walk when a person with a disability was about to cross, the fine was $90. Cam Jackson, the Citizenship Minister, said this bill was presented to help broaden social opportunities and facilitate more independent activity for 1.6 million people with disabilities. Mike Harris, the Premier, promised this amendment in 1995. Now, six years later, the bill has been presented.

In March 1999, the Progressive Conservative government was going to present this bill, but it did not become law because of scheduling problems. The fact that these strengthened penalties only apply to provincial government buildings, and municipal or privately-owned facilities will only be advised to apply them, is being pointed out as the weak point of this bill. Chairman of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, David Lepofsky, who is blind, raised questions about the law's real effect - it does not include any regulation to compel door thresholds to be lowered for people with disabilities.

Minister Jackson said that through public hearings, public opinions will be heard and relayed to the Committee regarding construction standards for new buildings, so that people with disabilities can approach buildings easily and construction rules can be finalized; however, he did not clearly indicate a date for this. Howard Hampton, Ontario NDP leader, said that the Human Rights Commission already has the right to examine construction rules, so the creation of another committee is meaningless. He claimed that 2/3 of the proposal is not for the improvement of the rights of people with disabilities, but is public relations propaganda to Ontarians.


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