Letter to the Hon. Mike Harris
Premier of Ontario
October 2, 2000
October 2, 2000
The Honorable Michael Harris
Room 281, Legislative Building
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1
Dear Premier Harris,
Re: Ontarians with Disabilities Act
We are writing yet again to request a meeting with you to discuss
the need for prompt action to enact a strong and effective
Ontarians with Disabilities Act to achieve a barrier-free Ontario
for the 1.5 million Ontarians who now have a disability, and the
many more who will acquire a disability in the future.
You have declined every one of the many requests for a meeting
that we have made during your five and a half years as Premier.
We persist in requesting a meeting with you because despite the
fact that you reiterate your confidence in the Ministers to whom
you refer us, it is clear that there will be no meaningful action
without your direct involvement.
We are deeply concerned and troubled by the twin blows which have
been struck against Ontarians with disabilities within a single
week. On Monday, September 25, 2000, you gave a sweeping
statement of your Government's agenda for the upcoming months.
It included no mention of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Less than one week before this, the Toronto Star reported that
your Minister responsible for this issue, Citizenship Minister
Helen Johns, had made the shocking statement that she did not
think that we needed this legislation at all.
Premier, we ask that you no longer simply pass our requests off
on the Citizenship Minister. At your request, we attempted in
good faith to work with the three successive Citizenship
Ministers to whom you have sent us over the past five and a half
years. It has been obvious to one and all that these Ministers
have been given no mandate to do anything of substance to
develop and enact a strong and effective Ontarians with
Disabilities Act, without your permission.
Minister Johns made it very clear to us that only you can make
meaningful commitments regarding the Ontarians with Disabilities
Act, when we met with her this past September 8. In your October
1999 Throne Speech, your Government committed to release an
"action plan" on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act during this
session of the Legislature. On a program aired by a London area
television station on March 25, 2000, Minister Johns stated on
behalf of your Government: "We agreed we'd put an action plan
forward by June."
Minister Johns did not release that action plan in June, or in
the three months since then. When confronted with this, her
office first denied in writing that she made any such statement.
Later at our September 8, 2000 meeting with her, Minister Johns
acknowledged that she had committed to releasing your action plan
on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act by June. However she
said that this was only a "personal" deadline. According to the
Minister, the Government's deadlines only come from you. If
only you can speak for your Government on this issue, then it is
vital that we meet with you.
Moreover, this past spring, your Office sent us to meet with
Minister Johns to address specific questions which we had
directed to you and which the Minister had refused to answer.
We followed your Office's suggestion. However, when we met with
the Minister on September 8, 2000, the Minister still refused to
substantively answer most of our inquiries.
Premier, it was you who made the promise to enact the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act in your first term, and to personally work
together with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to
develop this law. We urgently require a meeting with you to
start to fulfill part of those unkept promises.
You said in your September 25, 2000 Statement of Priorities in
the legislature: "If I were to sum up our plan in one paragraph,
it would be this: we are keeping our promises, we are honoring
our commitments, we are doing what we said we would do and we
will continue to do so. ... As always, we will continue to keep
our promises. We will do what we said we would do, not just to
be able to say that we kept our promises but because, once kept,
these promises will build a stronger Ontario..." A strong and
effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act will help build a
David Lepofsky, CM
Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee
cc: Helen Johns 325-6195
Norman Sterling 326-2913
Dalton McGuinty 325-9895
Dwight Duncan 325-2201
Steve Peters 325-7262
Ernie Parsons 325-4757
Howard Hampton 325-8222
David Christopherson 325-3189
Marilyn Churley 325-3252
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