United to Achieve a Barrier-Free Ontario
for People With Disabilities
ODA Post-Election Action Kit
August 12, 1999
| Getting Ready for Government's New ODA Consultation |
| Getting New Ontario Legislature Ready for the ODA |
| Ideas for Action To Support a Strong ODA |
| Sample Letter to MPPs |
| Links |
Getting Ready for Government's New ODA Consultation
The newly elected Ontario Government has begun its new term in office with what appears to be a new note of openness on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. On Election Night, June 3, Premier Harris said he wanted to reach out to groups in society who had been shut out during his Government's first term. There is no better example of a group who was left out than the ODA Committee.
We promptly responded in a positive manner. We wrote the Premier once again and held a June 8 Queens Park News Conference. We extended our hand, offering to work together to develop a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We also wrote the new Citizenship Minister, Helen Johns to offer the same, and to ask to meet her.
Minister Johns got in touch by phone with ODA Committee Chair David Lepofsky on July 27, 1999, within a day of receiving a letter from the ODA Committee. She said she wants to work together with us. The Ontario Government's position during the 1999 election is that they plan to hold a new consultation and then to introduce a strengthened Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Minister Johns asked during this telephone call for input from the ODA Committee on how the new consultation should be conducted. She agreed to meet a delegation from the ODA Committee late in August or early in September to receive our input on how this consultation should be conducted. We confirmed in writing to the minister that we want to take a fresh start on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act and to get right to work on it.
Copies of these letters are available online ... please follow this link.
This all may signify that the Ontario Government intends to take a new approach to this issue. In the Harris Government's first mandate, it took the Government fully two years before it would sit down and talk seriously with us about how to conduct a consultation on the ODA. We have reached this point now within two months of the Government's second mandate. It is important for us to take up this opportunity and to provide the Government with helpful suggestions on how they should conduct their new consultation.
In 1997, we consulted with our Regions and developed a detailed platform on how the Ontario Government should conduct public consultations on this topic. We gave the previous Citizenship Ministers Marilyn Mushinski and Isabel Bassett and Ministry staff full briefings on this. We later pointed out our concerns about how the Government conducted its summer 1998 ODA consultation process.
We want your suggestions on whether there are things that we might want to add to our position on how to conduct proper consultations before we meet with the Minister. Please send your ideas to ODA Committee Chair David Lepofsky by September 3. Even if you respond after this date, we will try to incorporate your ideas. You can send an E mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to the mailing address above or by leaving a voice mail message at (416) 480-7012. You can also get your ideas to us through your regional ODA contact. If you do not know who your regional contact is, you can check our web site or contact Marg Thomas at the above address.
It has been our fundamental position that any consultation on the ODA should be public, open, barrier-free and fully accessible to all people with disabilities. It should be held across Ontario so all who want to can participate in person. It should not be closed or "invitation-only", and should not be held behind closed doors.
The Government should begin from the starting point that the goal of the ODA is the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all people with disabilities. The Government should not impose preconditions limiting what ideas or options people can include in their presentations on the ODA. The Government should keep its mind totally open and truly listen to what we have to say. The Government should not dilute the consultation process by including other issues apart from the ODA.
The consultation should truly be a "public" consultation, and should be open to all individuals and organizations, not just the ODA Committee itself. Individuals and organizations should be given ample advanced notice to prepare their presentations, and not be rushed to provide a response on short notice. People need at least two clear months to prepare their presentations and submissions. The list of those who participate in the consultation should be public, as well as the information that the Government receives.
The consultation should be conducted by elected members of the Legislature themselves. It should not be conducted by private consultants or Ministry staff. It is MPPs who need to learn from us.
You might want to think about your experiences during the Government's 1998 summer consultation process in making suggestions on how this new consultation should be conducted. It is reasonable to expect that our members will not want to again be called on during their vacation to participate in consultations. As well, we anticipated that people will not want to just be asked to repeat the very same things they were asked last year.
One format that you might wish to consider as an option for this new ODA consultation is that of a "Select Committee" of the Ontario Legislature. A Select Committee is made up of MPPs from all parties. It can hold hearings before legislation is drafted, and can travel across Ontario. One year ago, the ODA Committee showed that this could work very well. We held a highly successful open forum on the ODA at Queens Park last August 4, 1998, the first day of the Government's closed-door consultation process. MPPs from all three parties attended and received ample constructive input on the ODA from many members of the public.
Getting the New Ontario Legislature ready for the ODA
The Legislature is expected to resume mid or late October. The Legislature has many new MPPs, ministers and opposition critics. It is important that they now all receive a clear, strong message that the community supports a strong and effective ODA, and that the ODA should be a top priority as soon as the Legislature resumes.
You are encouraged to write, fax, phone or visit your MPP in your riding now to convey this message. Feel free to write your own letter or to use the sample letter included with this kit. A list of MPPs from all parties is also included.
Other Ideas for Action in your Community to Support a Strong ODA
With a break in the action since the election, we should also turn our efforts both as individuals and together to the goal of reaching as many members of the public as possible to educate them on the need for a strong ODA.
Here are creative ideas on steps you can take in your community now for action over the next weeks and months to help build as much public support as possible. We gathered these ideas from our members across Ontario. Let us know what you try, how it works, and what additional ideas you come up with.
- Get your local schools to have school children in class discuss the barriers facing people with disabilities and the need to remove them. Suggest that they hold a poster-making contest, where children can make and publicly post posters depicting both a society full of barriers, and a society free of barriers.
- Contact your local newspaper, radio station or TV station to suggest that they run a regular item on barriers, such as "Barrier of the Month", which either you or they could prepare. The media like real examples with people who can show how the barrier affects their lives. In addition, you could try to arrange to do your own column on these issues, either as a one shot deal or as a regular item.
- Keep collecting examples of barriers in your community.
- Contact local priests, ministers and rabbis as well as other religious leaders in your community. Meet with them individually or together to inform them about the ODA issue. Encourage them to get their congregations to learn about this issue, to have speakers discuss the ODA, and to let MPPs know that they support a strong ODA to achieve a barrier-free Ontario.
- Design and distribute a new poster or posters calling for a strong ODA to achieve a barrier-free Ontario. If you design a poster please let the rest of us know about it so it can be used in other regions.
- Contact your local municipal or regional government to encourage them to pass a pro-ODA resolution such as has been passed in a number of communities across Ontario.
- Reach out to leaders in the business community in your area. Share with them the benefits to all of a barrier-free Ontario, and get their ideas and involvement.
- Invite your local MPP to meet with you or your local disability organization. Get them to spend some time learning first hand what barriers you and others face due to their disabilities.
- Approach defeated candidates from the election to see if they would like to get involved in helping you, no matter what party they are from.
- If you have E-mail and are not yet on our ODA E mail distribution list, send a request to join that list to: email@example.com
Sample Letter to MPPs (any party)
Click here for name of MPPs Listed by Riding
I live in your riding. Congratulations on your election to the Ontario Legislature. I am writing to bring to your attention a very important issue, namely the need for a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to be passed into law as soon as possible to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for people with disabilities.
One and a half million Ontarians now have disabilities. Many more Ontarians will get a disability in the future. Ontario is full of far too many barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully enjoying life in this province. People with disabilities face these barriers when they try to get a job, use public transit, get an education, use our health care system, or make use of so many other goods, services and facilities in this province. We need a strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act to remove these barriers and to prevent them from being created in the future.
Before the 1995 election, Mike Harris promised that he would enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term. He did not keep this promise. In the 1999 election, people with disabilities all over Ontario were active to raise this issue. It was a prominent and influential issue in this election.
The Ontario Government has now committed to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act which will be stronger than the toothless Bill 83 it proposed last year, and which died before it became law. It also has promised to first hold a consultation on this law.
I am writing to tell you that I support the passage of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act as soon as possible. I want your commitment to support this, and to do what you can to make sure it happens as soon as possible. I want your commitment that this will be a top priority when the Legislature resumes. This important piece of unfinished business from the last term should be dealt with before any new business is undertaken.
Please let me know if you would like to meet to discuss this further or are interested in receiving additional information. The ODA Committee has a web site at www.odacommittee.net which contains all of the correspondence with Government and briefs prepared by the ODA Committee since 1995.
Please let me know whether you are prepared to work with us to bring about the passage of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act so that Ontario will be a barrier-free province.
ASK US IF YOU NEED THIS MATERIAL IN AN ALTERNATIVE FORMAT.
Email Premier Harris directly
List of MPPs by Riding
Regional Contacts of the ODA Committee
previous Action Act re: ONTARIO ELECTION ACTION KIT dated April 15, 1999
previous Action Act re: GETTING READY FOR NEW BILL ACTION KIT dated March 1, 1999
previous Action Act re: NEW YEAR'S ACTION KIT
previous Action Act re: BILL 83 ACTION KIT
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