Letter to Chief Election Officer
40 Orchard View Blvd, Suite 255
Toronto, ON M4R 1B9
June 14, 1999
Warren R. Baillie
Chief Election Officer
51 Rolark Drive
Scarborough, ON M1R 3B1
By Fax: 326-6200 and mail
Dear Mr. Baillie,
We are writing as legal counsel on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
As you know on April 6, 1999 David Lepofsky, chair of the ODA Committee, wrote to you asking for your assistance in ensuring a barrier-free election for 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities, most of whom are eligible voters. Mr. Lepofsky wrote to you on May 25, 1999 to raise concerns about some of the barriers that people with disabilities had already encountered in the election campaign leading up to the June 3 election. You have not yet responded to either of those two letters.
As it turns out, people with a variety of disabilities did in fact encounter significant barriers during this election. Among the barriers that we have heard about are the lack of sign language interpreters for people who are deaf and require sign language interpreter service in the voting process, the lack of appropriate accommodation for people who are blind and vision- impaired, and some inaccessible polling stations. This is not an exhaustive list of the barriers that were actually encountered during this past election, but just a sample of some of the problems confronting people with disabilities as they tried to participate in the election process. The very fact that these barriers exist in Ontario in 1999 is unacceptable to people with disabilities and should be unacceptable to your office.
We are very concerned that even after Mr. Lepofsky's letter to you dated April 6, 1999, a full month before the election was called, this election fell far short of the goal of a barrier-free election. This has left a cloud over this election. We are asking that there be a full and objective investigation of the barriers facing people with disabilities during this election, not only those created by your own policies and practices, but barriers which were created at the local level by poor planning or a failure to appropriately accommodate a voter with a disability. The investigation should also look at any policies that created barriers. The investigation should ascertain which barriers are inherent in the Election Act itself. The investigation should offer recommendations on how to ensure that this never happens again.
We hope that you will recommend to the Government that they move quickly on a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act that would remove these barriers and prevent new ones from being created.
This is a very serious matter as it infringes on the citizenship rights of people with disabilities, which are fundamental to our very system of government. The fact that there were such barriers in an election bears on the very results of the election itself, whose outcome was quite close in a number of ridings.
We hope and trust you will support our call for this investigation, and that the investigation will be announced immediately. We would be pleased to do whatever we can to help this be successful, in order to ensure that Ontario's next election will in fact be barrier-free for Ontarians with disabilities.
CC: Premier Mike Harris
Dalton McGuinty, MPP
Howard Hampton, MPP
Frances Lankin, MPP
Dwight Duncan, MPP
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