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Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA

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Ontario Government's
New ODA Bill 125

November 22, 2001



Tomorrow, November 23, 2001, the Conservative Government will
break another commitment that it made to Ontarians with
disabilities. Two years ago, on November 23, 1999, the
Legislature unanimously passed a resolution which required that a
strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act be enacted
by November 23, 2001. This promise is broken by the fact that no
ODA will be passed by tomorrow. Moreover, the bill that is now
before the Legislature is essentially voluntary and
unenforceable, not strong and effective.

Previously, on May 24, 1995, Mike harris promised to enact the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term. That promise
too was broken.

We are now rushing to prepare amendments to place before the
Legislature's Standing Committee on Finance to make this bill
strong and effective. We will make these available to the
Government, the opposition parties, and everyone as fast as we
can. We hope that they will be seriously considered and will be
adopted to make the bill effective. However, the Legislative
Committee's short and rushed timetable will not enable the
disability community to have the time needed to fully prepare and
present their views.

Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson now appears to blame the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee for this rushed
timetable, because we had called on the Government to comply with
the 1999 resolution. A Toronto Star article published day
states: "Jackson said the government wants to pass the act
quickly because it's trying to comply with a deadline set by the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, which asked for a law
to be in place by Nov. 23, 2001."

This is not fair to us. We had urged the Government throughout
the past two years since that resolution was passed to get a bill
before the Legislature as soon as possible to avoid the very
events that are now unfolding, namely an unfairly short and
rushed timetable for public hearings. Now that the Government
will have broken its commitment to comply with the deadline fixed
in that resolution, it is vital that we and the entire disability
community be given the time all need to have real and meaningful
input through the Legislature's Committee process so that the
Government can keep the resolution's commitment that the ODA be
"strong and effective".

We have made it clear for months that persons with disabilities
need adequate time to prepare for and fully participate in public
hearings. See e.g. our August 21, 2001 letter to Minister
, posted at this link.

We encourage you to mark tomorrow, November 23, 2001, by
contacting your local media and nearest Conservative MPP and
letting them know that:

* Friday, November 23, 2001 marks another broken promise to
persons with disabilities by the Government:

* Bill 125 needs substantial amendments, such as adding real
enforcement proceedings and extending it to the private sector,

* The Government's rushed timetable for public hearings will not
give persons with disabilities enough time to prepare, and will
not enable all who wish to have their say. This process does not
put the disability community in "the driver's seat", as
Citizenship Minister Jackson had committed.


Toronto Star Thursday, November 22, 2001
Disability bill being rushed, groups charge

Katherine Harding

Advocacy groups for the disabled accuse the Ontario government of
rushing a long-awaited disabilities act into law without giving
them enough time to voice their concerns.

"(The bill's) been a long time coming ... but we think it needs
some work," said Deanna Groetzinger, vice-president
communications for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

Eight groups, including the Ontario Association for Community
Living and the Canadian Mental Health Association, sent an open
letter to Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson this week saying the
bill lacks any "real enforcement or mandatory barrier removal."
The letter also said the bill doesn't do enough for the blind,
deaf, hard of hearing or those with intellectual disabilities or
disabilities caused by mental illness.

Jackson tabled the Ontarians with Disabilities Act this month and
said it was aimed at increasing accessibility, opportunity and
independence for the 1.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. The
proposed law, which passed second reading last night, includes a
plan to increase fines for illegally parking in a disabled spot
to a maximum of $5,000, up from $500.

Patti Bregman, director of programs for the Canadian Mental
Health Association, said the proposed law focuses too much on
physical barriers.

The groups are worried their proposed amendments won't be
properly heard if the government goes ahead with its plan to pass
it before the Legislature breaks for Christmas. Five days of
public hearings have been scheduled.

Jackson said the government wants to pass the act quickly because
it's trying to comply with a deadline set by the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act Committee, which asked for a law to be in place
by Nov. 23, 2001.

Ontario residents with disabilities have been waiting for the new
law since Premier Mike Harris promised the legislation in 1995.

Both opposition parties oppose the bill.

"They (the Conservatives) had six and a half years to honour
their promise and now they are ramming it through," said Ernie
Parson, the Liberal's critic for persons with disabilities.

"This isn't a bill that will improve people's lives, with some
very minor exceptions."



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