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

Letter to the Honourable Isabel Bassett,
Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation

c/o Marg Thomas
1929 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto ON M4G 3E8
Tel: (ODA Committee Voice Mail) 416-480-7012
Tel: (Voice direct) 416-480-7686
Fax: 416-480-7014
TTY: Care of Deborah Thynn 416 964-0023 ex. 251

November 9, 1998

The Honourable Isabel Bassett
Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, 6th Floor,
77 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2R9

Dear Minister:

Re: Ontarians with Disabilities Act

As you know, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed a resolution on October 29, 1998, which calls on your Government to introduce a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act that embodies the 11 fundamental principles that our Committee presented to your Government over three years ago. Last summer, these principles were embraced and endorsed by the disability community during their participation in your Government's ODA Consultation process. Now, all three parties in the Legislature have voted to adopt them as well.

It is of great significance to us that among those voting for this resolution were 25 members of your Government's caucus. This included your own Parliamentary Assistant, Derwyn Shea, who travelled across the province last summer at your request to hear from disability groups and others during the Government's consultation process. It also included your predecessor, the previous Minister of Citizenship, Marilyn Mushinski. Ms. Mushinski voted for this resolution after she had had responsibility for this Act for over two years, and had committed to us that this must be a meaningful Act with teeth.

The vote was an important one for us because it supports the positions put to you by people with disabilities across this province during the consultation process and repudiates your government's policy direction on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which was set out in your Discussion Paper of last summer. That Discussion Paper calls for the Ontarians with Disabilities Act to be voluntary, not mandatory, in the important area of employment. It also leaves open the possibility that the Act will be voluntary in other areas as well. In sharp contrast, the resolution demands that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act be mandatory in all areas. The Discussion Paper suggests that there will be no new enforcement agency nor any new enforcement mechanisms for the Act. The resolution, in contrast, calls for new and effective enforcement.

The Ontario Legislature has issued a clear and unequivocal directive to your Government about the principles that must be embodied in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Despite this, you responded to questions following the vote by saying that this resolution is not binding. You also made it clear to us at our October 22, 1998, meeting the week before the resolution was passed that you were bound by the parameters of the discussion paper. We believe that the vote in the Legislature changes everything. While this resolution may not be legally binding on your government the one-and-one-half-million people with disabilities in Ontario will measure any legislation introduced against the principles adopted in the resolution. Our membership considers the resolution to be both politically and morally binding on you and your government.

We are writing to ask whether or not your government is prepared to follow the specific directive of the Legislature and introduce an Ontarians with Disabilities Act that incorporates the 11 principles agreed upon by the Legislature. We are also requesting an urgent meeting with you and the Premier to discuss how these principles will be incorporated into any proposed legislation. We do not want to wait until the legislation is introduced and there are time limits on debate, hearings and time for amendments. At that point it is too late, the time to meet with us is now, before the Bill is introduced.

We are also writing about another very serious concern about your statement that the resolution calls for job quotas. Minister, you know that this is not true. In our letter to the Premier, dated July 15, 1998, and copied to you, we explicitly stated that we are not seeking job quotas. It is hurtful to Ontarians with disabilities and far beneath the dignity of the important office that you hold to continue to purposely try to mislead the public with the hopes that it will undermine public support for the strong legislation called for in the resolution. We trust that you will immediately stop making these statements.

We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible that your government has listened to the unanimous vote in the Legislature and will introduce legislation complying with all 11 principles. We also hope that you will be successful in arranging a meeting for us with the Premier as soon as possible to discuss the content of the legislation. Finally, we trust that you will advise in advance us of the date the legislation will be introduced.


M. David Lepofsky, C.M.

Co-Chair Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee

cc:  Mike Harris  PC  325-7578
  Dalton McGuinty  LIB  325-9895
  Gilles Morin  LIB  325-9009
  Dwight Duncan  LIB  325-1498
  Howard Hampton  NDP  325-8222
  Marion Boyd  NDP  325-7111
  Frances Lankin  NDP  325-3336
  Gerrard Kennedy  LIB  325-2901

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