Image of black text with drop shadow that reads: Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee

Letter to The Honourable Helen Johns,
Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation

September 27, 2000

The Honorable Helen Johns
Minister of Citizenship,
Culture and Recreation
400 University Avenue, 6th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2R9

Dear Minister:

Re: Ontarians with Disabilities Act

It was deeply troubling to learn from the Toronto Star's report
last week that you do not see a need for legislation to tackle
the myriad of barriers which people with disabilities daily face.
At our September 8, 2000 meeting with you, you told us that you have
spent the past year consulting on this legislation, and that you
are open to any and all options for inclusion into it. If the
Star's report is correct, and the result of your consultation is
a belief that no legislation is needed at all, then how can
anyone expect you to live up to your Government's commitment to
enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act which is strong and

At our meeting with you on September 8, 2000 you did not provide
meaningful and detailed answers beyond vague generalities to our
most basic questions. We still await detailed answers to such
matters as whom you specifically have been consulting, what
feedback you have received (beyond the vague references to
concerns about cost) whether Cabinet has made any decisions on
the contents of the ODA, when exactly you would be producing your
promised action plan, what your target date is for introduction
of the ODA into the Legislature, whether there would be public
hearings on your forthcoming bill, and whether you would support
the holding of public hearings on the bill.

We also did not receive answers or commitments from you on other
matters that came up during this meeting. You indicated during
our meeting that you had requested Ontario Government ministries
to provide you with figures on the cost to them of implementing
the Ontarians with Disabilities Act that we are proposing, and
that your receipt of this information is in progress. We asked
if you would provide us with those figures, so that we can give
feedback on them. Similarly, we asked you to provide us with any
cost figures that you have indicated that you received from
business in relation to such legislation.

You said you are open to consulting with anyone who wants to
share with you their views on the Ontarians with Disabilities
Act, and asked us to publicize this for you. Because we are a
voluntary coalition, we proposed that it would be far preferable
for you to hold a press conference to announce your invitation
for input. We also suggested that it would be worthwhile for you
to bring together both the business community and we from the
disability community to discuss this legislation with you
together, rather than separately.

We asked if you would agree to meet with us once you have
completed your consultation to let us know about the feedback
received and the results of the consultations. This would enable
us to give you feedback on the information you have received and
the options you will be considering. Again, we regret that you
made no commitments.

With the limited time available during our September 8,
2000 meeting, we could only explain briefly that a strong and
effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act can be designed to
achieve our goals, while achieving a real payback for Ontario.
Some measures under that legislation would cost little or
nothing, and should occur promptly. those that would cost more
should be implemented over proper time lines to ensure that the
costs involved can be reasonably spread out. We also explained
that it is not possible or necessary to fix a total cost figure
to this kind of legislation, and that the notion of such an all-inclusive
cost figure misses the point.

During our meeting with you, you understood and agreed that we
are not seeking job hiring quotas in the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. You also recognized that the 11 principles
for that legislation that we have proposed and that the Ontario
Legislature(including all present from your party) unanimously
accepted by resolution on October 29, 1998 do not call for any
job hiring quotas.

You indicated that you are now looking into the operations, costs
and implications of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We
informed you during this meeting that during the 1995-1997 tenure
of your predecessor Citizenship Minister Mushinski, your Ministry
had commissioned the Roher Institute to complete a comprehensive
study on the costs occasioned by the Americans with Disabilities
Act. We were deeply troubled that after you have said that you
have been working almost full time on this issue, and read every
document available to you, you were unaware of the existence of
this 100 page study prepared at the request of your Ministry
addressing an issue which you now appear to consider important.

It is now more vital than ever that we have an opportunity to
meet with Premier Harris. We await word on this, as you agreed
to contact him to forward our request for a meeting.


David Lepofsky, C.M.
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee

cc: Hon. Mike Harris 325-7578
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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