ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED
Mrs. Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is for the Premier.
Today, the disabled community won a tremendous victory with a Supreme Court
ruling that people with disabilities must have equal rights to access the
health care system. In particular, the court found that people who are
deaf or hard of hearing have rights to sign language interpreters when
they're accessing health care services.
The Attorney General intervened in this case and argued that because health services are delivered by hospitals rather than directly by governments, it wasn't the government's responsibility to ensure that access is provided for people with disabilities. Well, you lost. The Supreme Court said that argument was not valid, and your government has been evading its responsibility, but you can't stall any longer. All citizens have the right, confirmed by the Supreme Court, of access to health services, and it is the government's responsibility to ensure that they have it. Will you stop your stalling and work with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee and others to ensure access to our health care
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think the Attorney General can respond.
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): We have received the decision. It's a lengthy decision that involves a significant review of charter issues, and certainly we are reviewing the decision to assess its implications for Ontario.
Mrs. Boyd: It's not particularly lengthy. It's only 10 pages.
It is a Supreme Court of Canada decision and has far-reaching implications
for people with disabilities, guaranteeing them access not only to health
care services but to all other government services.
The decision today says, and I'll quote from page 5, "Legislatures may not enact laws that infringe the charter and they cannot authorize or empower other persons or entities to do so." On page 6 it says, "Governments should not be allowed to evade their constitutional responsibilities by delegating the implementation of their policies and programs." That is exactly what this government has been doing with the restructuring commission, with many of its other actions: trying to shove down decisions to other bodies to evade their responsibility for access to services.
The reason the question was to the Premier is that the Premier promised that he would enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in this province in his first term and he has yet to meet with the committee that has been formed, a rainbow coalition across -
Hon Mr. Harnick: Certainly, the first term isn't over yet. I can
say that the member has a very convoluted way of taking a look at what
the Supreme Court said on page 5 and on page 6 and relating it to issues
that bear no resemblance at all to what this case was about. Quite simply,
as she recites those passages on pages 5 and 6, it shows how necessary
it is to review and assess the implications of this decision on Ontario,
and that's exactly what we're doing.