Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee

ODA Committee Homepageblank spaceFactsheet; the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committeeblank spaceWhat's New on the ODA Committee websiteblank spaceCorrespondence between the ODA Committee and the Ontario Governmentblank spaceODA Committee Press Releasesblank spaceHansard from the Ontario Legislature re: ODAblank spaceODA Committee Action Kits and Tipsblank spaceContact the ODA Committeeblank spaceOrganizational Members of the ODA
Who are we?blank spaceMajor ODA Documentsblank spaceODA News Briefsblank spaceODA Handoutblank spaceODA Pamphletblank spaceODA Postersblank spaceblank spaceRegional ODA Eventsblank spaceblank spaceFree Membership form to Join the ODA Committeeblank space

Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA

follow this link for text-based navigation menu

Ontario Government's
New ODA Bill 125
Media Coverage

December 10, 2001




The media coverage on the ODA issue just keeps on coming. Capping off this
latest collection is a compelling editorial in the Toronto Star on Monday,
December 10, 2001 on the eve of clause-by-clause debate on this bill. It calls
on the Ontario Government to take the time needed to consider the amendements
needed to make Bill 125 strong and effective. We also include:

* An article that ran in the Monday, December 10, 2001 London Free Press about
the Government's hectic agenda in the remaining days of this session of the
Legislature, including pushing through Bill 125, the proposed Ontarians with
Disabilities Act.

* A letter to the editor that ran in the the Niagara Falls Review and the St.
Catharines Standard last week, by Regional Contact Ian Greaves of the
Niagara/St. Catharines Region of the OdA Committee.

* An article on the ODA bill in the Guelph Mercury that ran on Friday, November
30, 2001


Toronto Star Monday, December 10, 2001
Page A-22

Withdraw weak bill

For six years, the provincial Tories saw no urgency about passing a law to help
the disabled. Now, suddenly, the government wants its month-old Ontarians with
Disabilities Act enacted by Christmas.

This new-found resolve might be welcome if the bill had widespread support. But
it doesn't. It is such a feeble piece of legislation that groups representing
the disabled have spoken out strongly against it. Both the Liberals and New
Democrats plan to vote against it.

It is a mystery why Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson is so determined to ram it
through the Legislature.

It won't make Ontario barrier-free. It won't be applauded by the 1.6 million
Ontarians with disabilities. And it won't win him public approval.

The obvious thing to do is slow down and fix the legislation.

The bill, introduced on Nov. 5, is meant to fulfil Premier Mike Harris' 1995
election pledge to dismantle the barriers that prevent Ontarians with
disabilities from living and working as normally as possible.

But it falls far short of that objective on almost every count:

It would not require public institutions, such as schools and hospitals, to set
a timetable for becoming accessible. It would merely ask them to identify
barriers and draw up a plan for removing them.

It would not require the businesses, such as stores and restaurants, to become
accessible. It would merely encourage them to do so.

It would not set provincewide accessibility standards. It would merely
establish a council to oversee disability issues.

And it would do little to address the kind of impediments faced by the blind,
deaf and mentally disabled.

After waiting so long, lobbying so tenaciously and putting forward so many
practical suggestions, citizens with disabilities have a right to expect better
legislation than this.

If Jackson is wise, he will withdraw the bill. It needs major repair work.

Racing to meet an artificial deadline, after dawdling and procrastinating for
six years, looks a bit silly.

There is still time to get it right. It's a question of political will.


The London Free Press
Monday, December 10, 2001
Hectic week set for Ontario legislature
The government is trying to push through several bills before the break.


TORONTO -- It's shaping up to be a hectic week at the legislature as the
government tries to push through a dozen bills before the legislature breaks
Thursday -- likely until May or even June.

But despite late-evening sittings and shortened debates during Mike Harris's
final days in the legislature as premier, numerous other key pieces of
legislation in various stages of passage won't make the cut.

"They're throwing in the towel on the bills that they've got outstanding," said
New Democrat House leader Peter Kormos.

"They're not doing anything that would indicate an aggressive pursuit of any of
the bills."

Bills that do not pass before the break won't die on the order paper, as is
usually the case when the house prorogues and the session ends.

A government motion passed last week allows every piece of legislation
introduced to remain alive.

The government will, however, introduce the next session with a throne speech,
officials say, under what is expected to be a substantially different-looking

Conservatives elect a new leader -- and therefore a new premier -- on March 23.
He or she will appoint a cabinet that will set the tone as the government heads
toward a provincial election, expected in 2003.

Among the major bills the government house leader has indicated she expects the
legislature to pass this week is one designed to protect the ecologically
sensitive Oak Ridges moraine.

Initially hailed as a breakthrough piece of environmentally friendly
legislation, critics have since argued there are too many loopholes.

The Municipal Act, a sweeping overhaul of the legislation that governs local
governments, is also expected to pass.

Among other things, the legislation would clarify the autonomous powers
municipalities have in a dozen areas of jurisdiction.

The government is also expected to finally make good on what has been one of
its longest unkept promises.

Even before coming to office in 1995, Harris pledged to introduce an Ontarians
with Disabilities Act.

A first attempt at legislation three years ago failed but the latest effort
appears destined to succeed, despite lingering qualms from activists for the
disabled that the new bill still doesn't go far enough.

They argue it leaves too much to the goodwill of the private sector when it
comes to dismantling barriers for those with disabilities.

Another bill expected to become law in short order is the Quality in Education
Act, which sets in motion the process for teacher testing and mandatory
recertification every five years.

Among the legislation which is unlikely to pass but which could be resurrected
next spring are:

- Measures to deal with organized crime;

- Rules on disposing of and spreading manure;

- Declaring hunting and fishing a part of Ontario's heritage.

The opposition has offered to sit next week and to resume sitting in
mid-January, but that appears highly unlikely.


The following letter to the editor ran during the week of December 3, 2001 in
the Niagara Falls Review and the St. Catharines Standard.

Letter to the Editor:

After a delay of more than six and one-half years, the Ontarians With
Disabilities Act, Bill 125, was finally tabled on November 5.

The legislative process is now moving at a break-neck pace with the government
in a panic to have an Act passed in six weeks.

Second reading of the Bill has occurred and public hearings will be finished
on December 7. Imposing this tight deadline proves the government's lack of
sincerity in consulting with the 1.6 million people with disabilities in

Much to our dismay, no committee hearings on the Act will be held in the
Niagara area.

Bill 125 should be viewed as a framework for effective legislation and merely a
first step in the process. In many important respects, the Bill falls far short
of the goal of achieving a barrier-free Ontario in which people with
disabilities can participate as true citizens in all aspects of life.
We need time to work carefully through the committee public hearing process to
propose amendments that will bring about comprehensive and strong legislation
that benefits all persons with disabilities. Don't our opinions count in

Ian Greaves, Regional Representative
Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee



The Guelph Mercury, Friday, Nov. 30, 2001
City Opinion Divided on new disability legislation
by Joanne Shuttleworth for The Guelph Mercury

Both supporters and critics of the Ontarians With Disabilities Act, which had
first reading in the legislature on Nov. 5, agree on one thing.

The barriers that people with disabilities face are as diverse as the people
who have them.

That's where the similarities stop, though. Supporters say the legislation is
a good start and will put the issue of the disabled into the public
consciousness. Critics fear once it is passed those issues could be swept
under the carpet.

"The legislation attempts to address all peoples with disabilities but it falls
short of that" said Janet Wood, a Univeristy of Guelph professor who sits on
the Ontarians With Disabilities Act (ODA) committee.

"The wording of the bill focuses on mobility issues and tends to neglect those
with limited hearing and sight. And that is a growing number as the population

In its pre-election campaign in 1994, the Harris government promised to
introduce legislation to reduce barriers for people with disabilities.

Bill 125 is the Tory attempt to come through.

Wood said that after eight years in office and a former proposal ditched in
1998 because of strong opposition, there's a real push to have this version
passed before Christmas.

"There will be opportunity for amendments to the bill and five public hearings
have been set. But we're hampered by the short timelines," Wood said,
referring to the scant three week period between first and second reading.

"It feels like we're approaching the 11th hour."

The crux of the controversy is the fact that there's no requirement from the
private sector to buy in.

The act outlines a number of government and public buildings - such as
hospitals, schools, city halls and universities - that must be accessible, but
for private businesses, the act only suggests compliance.

Wood said business owners won't think about accessibility issues unless they
have to.

"People think of wheelchair ramps, eleevators and accessible washrooms and
those are important. But having braille menus - a much smaller expense - would
make all the difference to the visually impaired. To deny the whole effort by
focussing on the big expenses is not helping the issues," Wood said.

Guelph's Susan Wheeler, chair of the Disability Self-Esteem Council and
publisher of a magazine for the disabled, opposes that kind of thinking.

She said the government is leading by example.

"People want an instant fix and that's just not possible. I would love a fully
accessible world - I experience challenges too," said Wheeler, who finds
herself increasingly in a wheelchair because of a progressive nero-muscular

As a small business owner herself, Wheeler said forcing firms to become
accessible could put them out of business.

She said the ODA act has a strong education component that will help change

"I think barriers are unintentional. Greater awareness will help that," she

John Travers Coleman, chair of the Guelph-Wellington Barrier Free Advisory
Committee, siad that while the government should be applauded for taking
initiative to improve life for people with disabilities, the sudden rush after
eight years of nothing worries him.

"I don't want to antagonize the Ministry (of Citizenship), but my gut says this
is political expediency and does not address the issues that are causing
distress to people with disabilities", he said. "It's a pre-election year and
I worry that's the real motive. If this is worth doing - and it is - it should
be done right."


back to ODA Bill 125 Index page



Top of Page



Website maintained by Barbara Anello

Please email your feedback on the website.

Last updated January 17, 2002

Web Design Courtesy of Barbara Anello 
of AWS: Anello Web Services 
URL: http://welcome.to/aws