Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
c/o Steve Kean
35 McCaul St., Suite 310
Toronto, Ontario M5T 1V7
Tel: (416) 979-5514 Fax: (416) 979-0849
April 10, 1997
The Hon. Marilyn Mushinski
Minister of Citizenship, Culture & Recreation
77 Bloor Street West, 6th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2R9
Dear Ms Mushinski:
I am writing to you to address three matters on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
First, we have received your letter to me dated March 17, 1997. This letter did not reply to most of the specific questions to you set out in my letter to you dated February 5, 1997. Our members would appreciate answers to them. Second, we wish to bring to your attention an article published on page 6 of the Hamilton Spectator dated March 6, 1997. It is entitled: "Barrier-Free Crusade Runs into Roadblock," and was written by reporter Ray Di Gregorio. It reports on our coalition's efforts at getting your Government to act on its written election promise to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and to work together with us to develop it. The article includes the following report of your office's position on the proposal of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act:
"The government, however, says it is not sold on the value of an overarching act that would dictate to every ministry how its projects and new laws should address access issues for the disabled.
Citizenship Minister Marilyn Mushinski is responsible for such issues and has instructed her department to study various policy options, said her spokesman Tim Abray, who denied the government is stonewallling.
The coalition's proposed legislation might be impractical because it establishes the same set of rules for all government departments, which may have different considerations, he said.
Instead of a law, the government is looking at a general policy that will tell individual ministries how to formulate programmes and laws with access issues in mind. The health ministry, for example, could initiate a policy in which all hospital building projects must meet access standards for items such as wheelchair ramps or drinking fountains.
Those types of issues are being examined, and new policies will be announced at some point, said Abray. He agreed that the process is not moving as fast as the disabled persons' coalition would like."
We are very seriously concerned about the reported position of your offiec. Tbe position expressed by your office in this article constitutes a clear repudiation of Premier Harris's written election promise of new legislation. It confirms your previous indications that your Ministry is merely studying options, that may include legislation rather than actually developing legislation. Legislation is what we were promised.
Even worse, your spokesman Mr. Abray reportedly indicated skepticism about the very question of whether legislation is even appropriate, despite Premier Harris's clear, solemn and specific election promise to enact legislation. This is evident where the article reports as follows:
"The government, however, says it is not sold on the value of an overarching act that would dictate to every ministry how its projects and new laws should address access issues for the disabled."
This is made even clearer by the reference to the fact that your Ministry is said to be looking into "a general policy that will tell individual ministries how to formulate programmes and laws with access issues in mind," and states that you are so considering instead of a law.
Moreover, the article demonstrates that your office is entirely misinformed on our coalition's principles for proposed legislation. It reports your spokesman as criticising our supposed position as follows: "The coalition's proposed legislation might be impractical because it establishes the same set of rules for all government departments, which may have different considerations, he said." (Referring to Tim Abray.) Mr. Abray's reported criticisms misrepresent as rigid and inflexible our coalition's stated position and reflect a serious lack of understanding of this important area of policy. We believe that if you were prepared to meet and consult with us in pason as we have offered to do, your office would be less prone to such errors.
We wish to know from you whether you are prepared to specifically and unequivocally repudiate all of Mr. Abray's comments as reported in the Spectator article. We also wish to know whether you are now prepared to clearly and specifically state that you will introduce and pass anOntarians with Disabilities Act as promised by Premier Harris in writing to us during the 1995 election. Absent these two steps, Ontarians can only take your office's position as a clear breach of that election promise. Moreover, we wish to emphasize the urgent need for us to have a face to face meeting with you to discuss the lack of progress on this project. We would appreciate your office contacting us at your earliest convenience to schedule such a meeting. Premier Harris promised that your Government would work together with us on this project. Apart from your one introductory meeting with us last summer, you have not worked together with us at all, in contravention of the Premier's promise.
Third, we understand from your staff that an outside consultant has been retained to prepare a report to your Ministry on the impact or effectiveness of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a report is anticipated soon. We regret that your Ministry did not choose to consult us either in the design of that research project or on the selection of the consultant. We would have been pleased to assist with both matters, and could have contributed constructively to the process. May we request that you provide us now with a copy of the terms of reference for that project. May we also have your commitment that on receipt of the consultant's report, you will provide us with a copy of it. We would welcome an opportunity to assist your Ministry's work by commenting on the report.
We look forward to hearing from you in response to the three matters raised in this letter.
David Lepofsky, C.M.
Hon. Premier Mike Harris
Mr. Dalton McGuinty
Mr. Dominic Agostino
Mr. Michael Colle
Mr. Howard Hampton
Ms Marion Boyd
Ms Frances Lankin
Mr. Ray Di Gregorio, Hamilton Spectator, 44 Frid Street,
Hamilton, Ont L8N 3G3