Letter to The Honourable Cam Jackson
February 21, 2001
Honourable Cam Jackson
Re: Ontarians With Disabilities Act
The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee congratulates you on your recent appointment to the position of Minister of Citizenship. As you are aware, the resolution unanimously adopted by the legislature on November 23, 1999 requires the Government to enact a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act into law by November 2001. As that date is rapidly approaching, we are writing to offer our assistance in meeting that critical deadline.
To help you get started with this issue, we enclose a brief backgrounder on the ODA that we hope will assist you in moving quickly on this initiative. In the case of each of your three predecessor ministers, we began with a "get acquainted" meeting, involving the Minister, their staff, and representatives of the ODA Committee. Because time is now so short, we suggest that it may be a more effective use of all of our time if we proceed in a somewhat different manner. We propose the following steps that we hope will facilitate your work on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act:
1. Organize a meeting with yourself, the Premier and the ODA Committee. The former Minister had agreed to communicate to the Premier our request for a meeting with him. It has been clear that without the Premier's strong support and leadership, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act will continue to languish at the bottom of this government's priority list. One only has to look at the lengthy list of other pieces of legislation introduced and passed by this government since it took office to know that the lengthy lead up period to legislation that we have experienced with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act is the exception, not the rule.
2. Create an open, accessible process that includes representatives of persons with disabilities, including the ODA Committee, as well as other stakeholders including business, the seniors community and others, to meet and work together to develop a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We strongly support a collaborative effort among these stakeholders, rather than one which divides them or keeps them separate from each other. It is unfortunate that up until now the previous Ministers have generally chosen to meet with the different stakeholders separately rather than helping the various stakeholders work together. By also involving other members of your caucus in this collaborative process, they could bring to bear local issues and help your caucus learn about our needs.
We believe that by these measures, you and your Government could make a positive fresh start on this important issue. We wish to do whatever we can to help this happen.
We are keenly aware that the development and enactment of a strong and effective ODA would benefit from an open exchange, including a flexible process of back-and-forth negotiations. We have been and remain flexible and eager to participate in such a process. We hope that you will be able to get that process started now.
Minister we very much appreciate that you personally voted on November 23, 1999 in support of the ODA resolution passed on that date. It requires a strong and effective ODA to be enacted into law by November 23, 2001. There are now only 275 days until that deadline. Please accept our offer to work together with you, the Premier, business, the seniors community and the other stakeholders to make your vote on that resolution a reality.
cc: Hon. Mike
FEBRUARY 21, 2001
Prepared by the
ODA Committee to assist the New Citizenship Minister,
WHO IS THE ODA COMMITTEE?
The ODA Committee
is a province-wide, grassroots, non-partisan coalition of many, many
WHY DOES ONTARIO NEED A STRONG, EFFECTIVE AND MANDATORY ODA?
Over 1.5 million Ontarians
with disabilities face many physical, technological, informational,
such as public education and information campaigns, have not succeeded
WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM A STRONG, MANDATORY ODA?
As retired Supreme
Court of Canada Justice Peter Cory wrote in the November 7, 2000 Toronto
Star: "A strong, effective Disabilities Act would benefit us all.
It would ensure that those with a disability would finally be included
in the rich and rewarding life of other residents of Ontario. Those who
now have no disability may well incur a disability as they get older,
and they too
Business will profit
from both the spending power of consumers with disabilities and talented
WHO BENEFITS FROM THE STATUS QUO?
No one benefits from the status quo. People with disabilities are forced to suffer the substantial and unfair burdens imposed on them by these barriers. Business loses out on the opportunity to benefit from employing more persons with disabilities, and from selling more goods and services to persons with disabilities. The taxpayer must shoulder the cost of more persons with disabilities on social assistance, who would prefer to be gainfully employed, and thus to be paying taxes into the public purse.
DOES THE PUBLIC
SUPPORT A STRONG, MANDATORY ODA?
* the Ontario Government's
June 2000 poll shows strong public support for an ODA which is
* the ODA Committee's
1997 poll similarly shows strong public support for legislation
* the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed 3 resolutions respectively for the ODA to be passed in the Harris Government's first term, for it to incorporate the ODA Committee's 11 principles to make it meaningful, and requiring a strong and effective ODA to be enacted into law by November 23, 2001.
* Over 20 municipal
and local councils have passed resolutions similarly calling for the ODA
* No major Ontario party has campaigned against the enactment of the ODA in either the 1995 or 1999 elections.
WHAT COMMITMENTS HAS THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT MADE SINCE 1995 REGARDING THE ODA?
The Ontario Government
has made the following commitments regarding the ODA, as
* May 16, 1996: by
supporting a unanimous Legislature resolution, to keep the promises to
* Oct. 29, 1998: By
supporting a unanimous Legislature resolution, to enact the ODA which
* 1999 election: to
undertake a new consultation with the public on the ODA, and then to
* Sept. 11, 1999:
Citizenship Minister Helen Johns tells London Free Press that the ODA
* Oct. 21, 1999: Throne
Speech commitment to bring forward an action plan on the ODA in
* November 23, 1999: By supporting a unanimous Legislature resolution, to enact a strong and effective ODA into law by November 23, 2001.
* March 25, 2000:
Citizenship Minister Helen Johns commits on London TV that the ODA
WHAT STEPS HAS THE GOVERNMENT TAKEN TO FULFIL THESE COMMITMENTS?
* No ODA was enacted
in the Harris Government's first term or in the first 1 and ½ years
* July to September
1999: Citizenship Minister Bassett and her Parliamentary Assistant Derwyn
Shea held closed, invitation-only consultations on what to include in
the ODA based on the Government's July 13, 1998 ODA Discussion Paper.
That Discussion Paper recognized the
* Late 1999 to February
2001: Citizenship Minister Helen Johns stated she is holding ongoing
* Late August 2000:
According to a leaked draft Cabinet submission, the Government planned
WHAT RESOURCES ARE
AVAILABLE TO YOU TO HELP WITH YOUR WORK ON
To assist you in becoming
more familiar with this issue, you have the benefit of the
* The ODA Committee's
comprehensive April 1998 Brief to the Legislature on the ODA. It
* The ODA Committee's
website at www.odacommittee.net. This is a comprehensive
* The detailed report
prepared by the Liberal Party's former disability critic, MPP Steve
* The columns in the
Toronto Star (available on the website) expressing support for a strong,
* The Ontario Human Rights Commission's February 19, 2001 Discussion Paper on Accessible Public Transit for People with Disabilities: This documents the need for provincial legislation to set standards to achieve barrier-free public transit. It provides a good illustration in this one sector of the need for a strong, mandatory ODA.
WHAT MAJOR CHALLENGES
DO YOU FACE IN UNDERTAKING YOUR
You will face several
significant challenges in discharging this new area of responsibility.
* There are only 275 days left until the November 23, 2001 deadline, unanimously set by the legislature, for passing the ODA into law.
* Your Government
has not yet held a consultation on the ODA which is open, public and
* Premier Harris gave
none of your three predecessor ministers a mandate, authority or scope