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October 12, 1995

The Honourable Marilyn Mushinski
Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation
6th Floor
77 Bloor St. West
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 2R9

Dear Ms. Mushinski,

I am writing in response to your letter of August 30th which was received on September 25th. In the letter, you appear to decline the request of my client, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, for an immediate meeting. You also indicate your Ministry is going to proceed with research on a new Equal Opportunity Plan without any mention that an Ontarians with Disabilities Act is part of this Plan.

In light of this response I would be remiss if I did not communicate that the ODA Committee finds your words unsettling, and attempt to communicate why.

Soon after a new Minister is appointed with responsibilities for persons with disabilities, it is traditional that a series of meetings take place. Out of these meetings emerges a deeper understanding of the goals and constraints existing on both sides. There was general understanding that the announcements of your Government's first month in office might delay this interchange somewhat. When a member of your staff called to say that a letter from you would soon be forthcoming extending an invitation for a meeting with the ODA Committee it appeared that the Government's desire to communicate with the disabled community had merely been delayed. Now we learn discussion is to be postponed indefinitely.

Your Government is on record as being committed to an ODA. I refer to Mr. Harris' election promise of May 24, 1995, reconfirmed in his letter of July 25th following the election.

The ODA Committee respectfully requests that you reconsider your decision and direct your staff to make the necessary arrangements to meet with it as soon as possible.

Of even greater concern to the Committee is the absence of any reference with an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in your letter.

The suggestion is that the Employment Equity Act will be repealed, and then the Government will turn to the Equal Opportunity Plan, presumably as described in the May 5, 1995 press release "Mike Harris and Equal Opportunity". The repeal of the Employment Equity Act will create a vacuum. We understood your government intended to fill this vacuum with an effective Equal Opportunity Plan based on zero tolerance for any discrimination. For an Equal Opportunity Plan to be effective, it must include an Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Knowledgeable staff of your Ministry will tell you, and American experience confirms, that the policy work necessary for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act of any substance must begin now if the Government's promise is to be kept. The Committee knows that if this work does not begin that the promise can and will not be kept. The Committee seeks an indication from you that the ODA promise is something to which you personally are committed. That indication would include immediately initiating a process within your Ministry, and across the Government, which is delivering on that promise.

In his July 25th letter, the Premier states:

I see that you have also written to the Honourable Marilyn Mushinski, Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. You will no doubt want to stay in touch with the Minister to discuss these matters in greater detail.

We do want to discuss these matters with you, but lack the opportunity.

To assist you, my client wishes to formally present you with the enclosed brief dealing with the aims and content of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It could form the basis for policy work in this area.

I hope to learn by October 20th whether you will be prepared to meet with representatives of the Committee.

Yours truly,

David Baker
Legal Counsel
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee


cc. The Honourable Mike Harris
Naomi Alboim, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Citizenship
Karen Cohl, Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of Citizenship
Sandra Carpenter, Senior Research Co-ordinator, Disabilities Issues Group
David Lepofsky, Counsel, Crown Law Office, Ministry of the Attorney General
Bob Fenton, ODA Committee
Sam Savona, ODA Committee

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