A LEGAL RESOURCE CENTRE FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
40 Orchard View Boulevard, Suite 255
Toronto, Ontario M4R 1B9
(416) 482-1245 (TDD)
(416) 482-2981 (FAX)
December 14, 1995
BY FACSIMILE, ORIGINAL BY MAIL
Marilyn Mushinski, Minister
Citizenship, Culture & Recreation
77 Bloor Street West, 6th Floor
Dear Ms Mushinski:
Re: Workplace Equal Opportunity Plan
I am writing on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, for whom I act as Counsel. We have had correspondence with you over the past months, in an unsuccessful effort to arrange to meet with you to discuss the Premier's promise to enact an Ontarians With Disabilities Act. In declining to meet with us to date, your correspondence has emphasized your Government's intention to develop a workplace equal opportunity plan. We have already registered with you our very serious complaint that your Government has taken no apparent steps to do policy or legislative work to live up to its written election promise to people with disabilities that it would enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
By this letter, we wish to bring to your attention a further serious complaint about your Government's activity in this area. Through public announcements as well as through your correspondence with us, we are aware that your Government intends to replace the existing Employment Equity Act with a new "Workplace Equal Opportunity Plan." Your Government has stated publicly that it is your intention to consult with affected stakeholders in the development of this plan. We wish to object to the fact that there has been no meaningful or effective consultation with people with disabilities in this context. As an excellent example, while you and your office are well aware of the existence of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, representing both individuals with disabilities and a significant number of the major disability organizations in Ontario, the opportunity for consultation that was afforded to the ODA Committee was effectively useless.
Representatives of the ODA Committee were contacted by an official of Avebury Research on the morning of Tuesday, November 14, 1995 to request an opportunity to consult on behalf of the Ministry of Citizenship. The consultation had to be completed by the end of that week, our representatives were advised. While the ODA Committee did what it could under these unreasonably short time lines to respond to the consultation request, participating in a telephone conference call on Friday, November 17, 1995 with representatives of Avebury Research, it emphasized that it strongly objected to the entire process. The ODA Committee was not afforded sufficient time to prepare for any such consultations. We had previously requested opportunities to meet with you as the affected Minister responsible for persons with disabilities. Instead, we had an opportunity only to speak with some outside consulting firm retained for this consultation process. Moreover, the ground rules for the consultation were that the Workplace Equal Opportunity Plan must be non-legislated, must be voluntary, and must not have any mandatory elements. In the Committee's opinion, this is a formula for total disaster and ineffectiveness. The examples of such voluntary measures as are apparently being considered by you (distributing pamphlets on the employment of persons with disabilities, the provision of 1800 numbers for advice to employers, and the providing of awards of excellence for those who do well in this area) are tokenistic, patronizing, and incapable of providing any meaningful progress in averting pervasive practices of discrimination against persons with disabilities.
The ODA Committee, therefore, is asking for a meaningful opportunity to be consulted on the Workplace Equal Opportunity Plan. We wish to consult directly with you, and not with some private consulting firm. We wish to be provided with sufficient opportunity to prepare for the consultation. We wish the consultation to be entirely without preconditions, such as requirements that the plan be non-legislated and voluntary - preconditions which subvert the purposes for the consultation.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience with regard to these requests.
cc: Naomi Alboim, Deputy Minister
Karen Cohl, Assistant Deputy Minister
Bob Rae, NDP Leader
Rosario Marchese, NDP MPP
Lyn McLeod, Liberal Leader
Tony Ruprecht, Lib MPP