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Ontario Government's
New ODA Bill 125

December 3, 2001



December 3, 2001: On Wed., Dec. 5, 2001 at 4 p.m., the ODA Committee will
make a presentation to the Legislature's Finance Committee during its hearings
on Bill 125, the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Toronto hearings are
on December 4 and 5 in Room 151 at Queen's Park, and will be televised on the
cable Legislature Channel.


The ODA's purpose should be the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all
people with disabilities. It should cover all disabilities, whether physical,
mental or sensory. It should cover all barriers, not just physical barriers.

All public and private sector providers of goods, facilities and services
should be required to remove and prevent barriers. Time lines and standards
should be decided upon through a consultation with all stakeholders. The
legislation should set out the time lines for developing these standards and a
process for consultation. The same requirements should apply to employers.

There should be an effective, speedy way to enforce the law, besides filing
human rights complaints for each barrier. People with disabilities should be
able to propose regulations, which the Government must consider adopting, to
set standards for barrier removal and prevention industry by industry.


This bill is weak and ineffective, not novel, "leading edge," innovative
legislation. It needs amending to be strong and effective, and to fulfil the
goals for the bill set by the government's November 1, 2001 "Vision Statement."
We reiterate what Tory MPP John O'Toole said of the bill in the Legislature.
It is "a very limited step." (Hansard November 20, 2001)

Nothing in the bill requires that barriers be removed or prevented within any
specific time frame. Nothing requires that people with disabilities be
consulted on the development of regulations or guidelines, except for the
narrow area of guidelines regarding new or renovated government buildings.

There is no guarantee that effective regulations dealing with the private
sector will ever be enacted or put into effect. The bill permits the Minister
or the Government to exempt all or part of the public sector from the Act. The
Minister or the Government does not have to give reasons for granting an
exemption, or even have a good reason for doing so.

The bill lets the Government create a wide range of regulations. This does not
mean that any regulations will ever be made. The bill does not fix a time
frame within which regulations to be made, or require that they be effective,
i.e. that they make a difference for persons with disabilities. The bill
commits no public funds to help with the cost of removing barriers.

The bill establishes no consequences if one does not obey the law, except for
the single barrier of improperly parking in a designated handicap parking spot.
If one believes that an organization is not removing or preventing barriers
when it could or should, there is nowhere to go to get the bill effectively
enforced or to get a remedy. All one can do is what was always available,
namely file an individual human rights complaint, one barrier at a time, and
possibly litigate for years. Even if one wins a case, a ruling may apply only
to that single barrier.

This bill does not include several important features that the Government says
it contains. For example:

The Government says that this bill fulfils the 11 principles for the ODA which
the Legislature unanimously approved by resolution on October 29, 1998. In
fact, this bill complies with only one, and falls substantially short on all

The Government says the bill's purpose is to achieve a barrier-free Ontario.
In fact, its much narrower purpose is merely to "improve opportunities" for
persons with disabilities and to provide for their "involvement" in barrier
identification, removal and prevention.

The Government says the bill puts the disability community in the "driver's
seat," driving change and having input into regulations and standards. In fact
the bill guarantees the disability community no right to input into
regulations, standards or guidelines, except narrow guidelines on some
government buildings. It does not guarantee the provincial disability advisory
council any role in developing regulations or standards.

The Government says this bill includes two leading-edge innovations, a new
provincial disability advisory council and a disability directorate. In fact,
both have very limited mandates. Neither is new. Shortly after taking office,
this Government abolished a similar provincial advisory council, that had 20
years experience of advising provincial governments. Five other provinces now
have such councils. As for the proposed Directorate, in the 1980s, the Ontario
Government had a separate disability secretariat with its own minister. In the
1990s this was merged with the Citizenship ministry and later significantly

In significant part, this bill repeats matters that are already law in Ontario,
and offers up several measures that the Ontario Government could have
undertaken throughout its two terms without waiting for new legislation (e.g.
making annual ministry barrier removal plans).

The Government says that under this bill, it will lead by example. Yet it
claimed throughout its mandate that it has already been leading by example.

This Government made a number of statements about what persons with
disabilities need, and what they seek in this legislation. Their statements
prove the case for enacting a strong, effective, mandatory and comprehensive
ODA. However, Bill 125 does not live up to those statements by the Government.
It does not achieve the benefits for Ontarians with disabilities, for
Ontario's business community and for all Ontarians that a strong and effective
ODA could bring. Both the Government's own public opinion poll and our public
opinion research and feedback support the kind of ODA we have been seeking.


The ODA Committee proposes detailed amendments to achieve four goals: To make
the bill include all the things that the Government says it includes; to make
the bill fulfil all 11 principles for the ODA (which the Legislature
unanimously adopted by resolution on October 29, 1998), to ensure that the bill
is "strong and effective" (in accordance with the Legislature's unanimous
November 23, 1999 resolution); and to clarify the bill's vague, confusing
wording. Our amendments would:

"We regret that after the Government finally agreed to our call for public
hearings on this bill, they have given people with disabilities as little as
one day's notice that they are invited to appear," said ODA Committee chair
David Lepofsky. "This creates a huge barrier against people with disabilities
being able to participate, because it can be hard, if not impossible, to
arrange accessible public transit with such short notice."

In the 1995 election Premier Harris promised in writing that he would work
together with the ODA Committee and pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in
his first term.

Contact: oda@odacommittee.net




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