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Ontario Government's
New ODA Bill 125
Media Coverage

December 9, 2001



Here are four more recent newspaper articles on the ODA:

* Articles in the December 9 and December 8, 2001 London Free Press
on the very successful shadow public hearings on Bill 125 which the ODA
Committee's London Region held in London, because the Government
would not allow the Standing Committee on finance to come to London
to hold its public hearings there.

* The Saturday, December 8, 2001 Toronto Star included a column by Helen
Henderson which included two issues, one of which was the hearings on Bill 125.

* The December 1, 2001 edition of the St. Catharines Standard included a column
on Bill 125 by Linda Crabtree.


The London Free Press - Sunday, December 9, 2001 Page A3
'We can't rely on goodwill' Critics say the Tories proposed disability act lacks teeth
BY DAVID DAUPHINEE -- Free Press Reporter

Ontario's Tories are rushing a fatally flawed disabilities bill through the
legislature this week to keep a long-unmet promise by outgoing Premier Mike
Harris, New Democrat Tony Martin said yesterday.

"They are trying to fulfil a commitment that was made (in 1995) and that's
about all," said Martin, NDP critic for disability issues and panel member for
a locally organized hearing into the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

"They are putting through a piece of legislation that is more a public
relations exercise than it is to get something done."

Speaker after speaker attacked the bill as narrow, weak and rushed.

They charged there was limited effort to solicit public comment and there's
little evidence extensive amendments demanded by the disabled community
will be incorporated.

The bill was introduced in November and is to be passed within days.

The London hearing was arranged by the London chapter of the ODA committee,
a grassroots organization of advocates, after the city was left off a list of
public hearing sites.

"You persist in treating the disability community like we were some sort of
liability to be divested of -- at almost every opportunity," said Londoner Cathy
Vincent-Linderoos, local representative of the ODA committee.

"I do not appreciate being overlooked, bypassed or misrepresented. I want the
runaway train hurtling toward us to put on the brakes."

The panel consisted of two government members -- London West MPP Bob Wood
and London North Centre MPP Dianne Cunningham, Liberal MPP Steve Peters of
Elgin-Middlesex-London and Martin, a Sault Ste. Marie MPP.

Cunningham agreed with presenters the bill was a long time coming, but argued
it represents an important starting point.

She said many matters demanded by presenters, such as a commitment of public
money, are not traditionally part of legislation.

Still, she said, "I sense your frustration and share it."

Frances Bauer, ombudsman at the University of Western Ontario, assailed the
bill for not having an enforcement mechanism.

"The bill doesn't have any teeth," she said before the hearing.

"What it really says to people with disabilities is trust us, trust we will
make this work."

Bauer said the bill also fails to include the private sector, provides too many
exemptions for the public sector, requires no timeline for changes and doesn't
make new money available to help remove barriers.

"Many people have told us they are more concerned about going to their grocery
store or their child's school than they are to a government building."

The bill was even slammed for who it doesn't cover.

"I had hopes the bill would encompass all disabilities and it doesn't do that,"
said Deborah Ellison, representing Community Living London.

The developmentally disabled "require more than big bathrooms and wheelchair
ramps," she said, including supports such as modified curriculums or tutoring.

The act needs more muscle to force compliance, she said.

"This disability requires more than goodwill. We can't rely on goodwill. And
the biggest barriers are in the private sector and this bill doesn't even
address that."

Gary Davies, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of London and
Middlesex, said his clients are also overlooked in the bill.

"A wider door frame isn't going to do it," he said because many people have
problems with short term memory, anger management and inability to cope with
large amounts of information simultaneously.

Only 52 per cent of employable persons with a mental health disability are
working, said Londoner David Dimitrie.

Demanding more enforceable rules, Dimitrie argued "employers won't hire persons
with disabilities.

"Employers don't want us."

[2 photographs by Dave Chidley accompanied this article; one is CVL addressing
the panel of MPPs with several members of the audience behind; the other
showing MPPs Steve Peters and Tony Martin with the ASL interpreter behind]


London Free Press Saturday, December 8, 2001
Disabilities Act flawed: critics Organizers of a public forum on Bill 125 say
that's the message they'll deliver today.
By DAVID DAUPHINEE -- London Free Press

Ontario's proposed disabilities act is riddled with problems and must be
overhauled, say organizers of a public forum on the act being held in London

"It is not the strong and effective ODA (Ontarians with
Disabilities Act) we have been promised or that we've advocated for for seven
years," Cathy Vincent-Linderoos said yesterday.

A London representative of the ODA committee, Vincent-Linderoos said holes in
the bill which she said offers few incentives to dismantle barriers to freer
access are matched by a seriously flawed public consultation process that was
rushed and visited too few Ontario cities.

The haste has left many people with disabilities without a chance to revise a
bill with enormous implications for their lives, she said.

Today's forum, with about a dozen submissions expected, isn't even part of the
official public hearing process. It's already wrapped up, she said.

The London forum was arranged by advocates for the disabled after the city,
which has been at the forefront of the struggle for a new disabilities act, was
left off the list of hearing sites.

The disabled community has already heaped scorn on the bill, introduced in
November, charging it falls short of promises made in 1995 when PC Leader Mike
Harris was running for the premiership. Draft legislation made public three
years ago was withdrawn after being panned.

In its official critique, the ODA committee denounces the new bill as "weak and

"It is not novel, leading edge, innovative legislation. It needs amending in
key areas."

Demanded amendments begin with the bill's opening words. The ODA committee
argues the bill speaks of "improving opportunities" rather than eliminating

Other concerns include:

* Nothing in the act requires barriers to be removed or prevented within a
specific time frame.

* No penalties for disobeying the law with single exception of improperly
parking in a designated handicap parking spot.

* Little requirement the disabled be consulted in setting
guidelines or regulations.

* A restrictive definition of disabled does not included persons with
environmental and chemical sensitivity or brain injuries.

* No guarantee regulations dealing with the private sector will ever be

* Government can exempt all or part of the public sector from the act.

* No commitment to spend public funds in removal of barriers.

Despite concerns with the bill, Vincent-Linderoos said she's pleased four
provincial politicians have promised to attend the hearing.

They include local Tories Bob Wood (London West) and Dianne Cunningham (London
North Centre), Liberal Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London) and Tony Martin,
NDP disabilities critic. Wood has also agreed to take a tape of proceedings and
copies of submissions to the legislative committee studying the bill, she said.


Toronto Star Saturday, December 8, 2001
Tory takeover of centres part of disturbing trend
Helen Henderson

The morning Mike Harris announced he would be stepping down as Premier of
Ontario, there were predictable whoops of joy in some quarters. Gone would be
the architect of this government's most disturbing policies, its cavalier
disregard for the vulnerable, including children, the elderly and people with

But underneath the elation, there was also a sense of unease, an unsettling
feeling that we were about to embark on one of the most dangerous periods yet
in the Harris regime. This was perhaps best expressed by a mother who has spent
just about every waking moment since 1995 desperately fighting to get her son
the educational assistance he needs.

"In the few months Mike Harris has left in office, watch out," she warned.
"He's going to ram through everything we've had nightmares about."

Everything, and then some, as it turns out.

It might have been predictable that a miserable Ontarians With Disabilities Act
would be fast-tracked into law - no mandatory changes, no timetable, no
enforcement mechanisms and no chance for effective public input into making
this province more accessible.

But the swift and hostile grab to take over the 43 community care access
centres that co-ordinate in-home nursing and daily living assistance throughout
the province came as more of a shock.

The access centres had responded vociferously earlier this year to budget
freezes, pointing out that they would have to cut services to accommodate the
increasing numbers of people discharged early from acute-care hospitals or
coping daily with the frailties of age or disabilities.

In response, Harris accused them of fear-mongering to garner public support for
their funding requests. Last month, Associate Minister of Health Helen Johns
introduced a bill that would install cabinet appointees as chief executives and
directors of the access centres.

Why would a government publicly wedded to divesting itself of so many public
services go the opposite route here?

Queen's Park argues its actions will make home care more efficient. Critics say
they are simply setting the stage for more cutbacks and nipping any opposition
in the bud.

If fiscal accountability were the issue, they point out, Harris could have put
the administrations of the care access centres under formal watch for a
specific period of time. Instead, he seems intent on ramming through Bill 130
without any effort to listen to community concerns.

One of the prices of democracy is the fact that it takes longer to allow all
voices to be heard. Even with a majority in the
Legislature, it is incumbent upon good government to listen to other points of

Before the introduction of Bill 130, the community care access centres
submitted a plan to Queen's Park to streamline home care and reduce
administrative costs. Their efforts were clearly ignored.

Among those deeply concerned about the takeover of community care access
centres and the lack of opportunity for public discussion is ARCH, a
Toronto-based legal resource centre for people with disabilities.

Because it has had an increase in the number of calls reporting problems with
service cutbacks, the group is painfully aware that people in need are being
denied adequate home care.

In an attempt to put together a fuller picture of how individuals and families
are coping across the province, ARCH is inviting people to call and share their
views. The group doesn't have the resources to follow up on individual cases
but it is trying to measure the depth and breadth of problems.

For more information, contact staff lawyer Lana Kerzner at (416) 482-8255
(voice), (416) 482-1254 (TTY) or (416) 482-2981 (fax). Toll-free from outside
the Toronto area, the numbers are
1-866-482-2724 (voice), 1-866-482-2728 (TTY) and 1-866-881-2723 (fax).

On Wednesday, the group that has fought long and hard for an effective
Ontarians With Disabilities Act told the Legislature's finance committee
hearings why it thinks Bill 125 falls far short of what is needed.

Lawyer David Lepofsky, chair of the ODA committee, said the bill should be
amended to, among other things:

Require that barriers be identified, removed and prevented within specific time

Ensure that the bill extends requirements to the private sector as well as the
public sector.

Prevent creation of new barriers.

Establish a truly effective consultative process to ensure the disability
community a voice in developing regulations and
Establish effective ways to enforce the legislation.

Prior to his presentation, Lepofsky said: "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

"This has created a huge barrier ... because it can be hard, if not impossible,
to arrange accessible public transit with such short notice."

For more information, see http://www.odacommittee.net.


The St. Catharines Standard Dec. 1, 2001
"They took all our good ideas and spoiled them"
Linda Crabtree

ODA - We've got to get it right!
Let's get serious on the ODA
ODA can affect millions

If you have a disability and can read you're likely up in arms about the
provincial government's latest attempt to develop an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act.

Tabled Nov. 5, 2001, Bill 125 was a cumbersome piece of legislation consisting
mainly of smoke and mirrors. It looked like it said a lot but there was really
nothing there. When I wrote about it last time, I said I thought it was
gutless and so, I've found, do many others.

Since then, I've seen David Lepofsky, head of the Ontarians with Disabilities
Committee in Toronto on several TV shows, read reams of e-mail on the topic,
followed it in the legislature and was introduced to the amendments developed
by David and his cohorts. My conclusion: David is a lawyer who just happens to
be blind; the government is blind and some of them just happen to be lawyers.

When I read the long Hansard transcript of the debate regarding the bill, I
couldn't help but be struck by the lunge and parry of the duelling members of
the legislature trying to deflect each other's points. The sad part was they
were acting as if they were playing a game, as if in sport, and in truth they
were debating the rest of my life and the lives of more than a million people
in Ontario. I wanted to shout, it isn't about you, it is about us...all 1.6
million of us...wake up and get real! I wanted to shake some of them and I
wanted to break some of them so they could see what it is truly like being
disabled and ignored.

I'll never forget what one person with a disability said when she heard what
the government has presented as the ODA: "They took all our good ideas and
spoiled them." In her simple, down to earth way, how incredibly right she was.

Now the government is trying to push the legislation through as it stands. They
have set a deadline and have said it exists because we want it done by that
time. Hey, don't blame that on us. You had six and a half years to get it done
right and you blew it. We were here, where were you? What we want is to get it
right. If we thought you'd really listen to us and it would take another six
months to really get it right, we'd be pleased to wait six months.

David Lepofsky and his people have worked day and night to put together a list
of good, common sense, realistic amendments to the paper. This list will have
gone to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs of the Ontario
Legislature on Bill 125 before you read this. What their reaction will be will
set the tone of any future dealing we have with the government. If they ignore
it and continue to push for the bill originally tabled, we'll know that they
never intended to listen to us...that it's all just an exercise to get it over
with. If they do amend the bill so that it truly makes sense, we've got a
chance. In something I recently read, a university student who is disabled
wrote that she has just struggled through four years of barriers to graduate
and now she has to face a work world that raises the same barriers all over
again. She also needs assistive technology. How, she says, is she going to ask
an employer in this time of unsteady job markets to fund that technology if he
isn't required to do so. She won't have a chance in hell! This bill could, if
written right, go a long way to helping her take her rightful place in society.
It could really help her to make a difference, earn a salary to pay taxes and
be productive.

A joint disability agency letter was sent to Cam Jackson last week asking for
time to amend the bill and suggesting why. It was signed by the Ontario
Divisions of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, The Canadian Mental
Health Association, Canadian Paraplegic Association and Spina Bifida and
Hydrocephalus of Ontario as well as the Canadian Hearing Society, the Muscular
Dystrophy Society of Canada, the Ontario Association for Community Living and
the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. This bill isn't just being
protested by a few people with disabilities whistling in the wind, it is being
shat upon by millions.

According to the United Nations, Monday, Dec. 3, is International Day of
Disabled Persons. The World Health Organization (WHO) tells us that between
seven and 10 per cent of the world's population lives with disability which
means approximately 500 million people, 80 per cent of them in developing

I firmly believe it behooves our provincial government to lead by example. This
is not a game. We're talking a lot of people. A lot of lives. Other provinces
will look to Ontario, other countries. What goes down now as our Ontarians
with Disabilities Act will affect millions of people in the future. Please get
serious. We've got to get it right.



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