Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario, 520 Sutherland Drive, Toronto, Ontario M4G 3V9 Tel: (416) 422-5644 Fax: (416) 422-5943 Contact: Diana McCauley or Vicky Williamson
Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association of Ontario, 35 McCaul Street, Suite 310, Toronto, Ontario M5T 1V7 Tel: (416) 979-5514 Fax: (416) 979-0894 Contact: Steve Kean

October 31, 1996

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

Dear Ms Mushinski,

Re: Ontarians with Disabilities Act

I am writing on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, as a follow up to our letters to you dated July 25, 1996 and October 3, 1995 to which you have provided no response. Reiterating for you the urgent need for real action towards the goal of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act, we wish to bring to your attention some important information which demonstrates the appropriateness of the prompt preparation and passage of a strong Act. One occasionally hears suggestions that business always resists any form of government intrusion into its affairs. Your government has been responsive to business sector requests "to cut red tape". The Ontarians win Disabilities Act Committee believes that thoughtful business leaders should and would share with persons with disabilities the need to achieve the goal of a barrier-free Ontario by the year 2000 for persons with disabilities. We wish to offer you the best systematic evidence currently available about business attitudes towards equality rights for persons with disabilities. It is based on the U.S. experience with the Americans with Disabilities Act. While we have always been clear that an Ontarians with Disabilities Act need not be a carbon copy of the Americans with Disabilities Act, this evidence on business attitudes towards the U.S. legislation is nevertheless relevant and compelling.

In 1995 the Louis Harris polling organization (which does much of the polling for the National U.S. Republican party) released the results of its "Survey on Employment of People with Disabilities." The poll was designed and analyzed by Humphrey Taylor, the Chairman and CEO of that organization. The report (a copy of which is attached) concluded that "The overwhelming majority of senior corporate executives [in the United States] supports the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] and does not favour weakening it in any way." (p. 5) This and the other results of this survey proves that business understands the great loss experienced by a society which excludes its members with disabilities.

Prior to the 1995 election, Mike Harris committed the Progressive Conservative party to implement an Ontarians with Disabilities Act if elected. Both opposition parties are on record supporting this goal, On May, 16, 1996, the Ontario Legislature spoke in a strong and unanimous voice in the face of our government's ensuing inaction on this commitment, calling on it to keep its election promise of an Ontarians With Disabilities Act. All available evidence is that business will support meaningful change.

In light of this new information, and in light of the fact that the months of your mandate are swiftly passing, marked by striking inaction on your election promise in this area, could you please promptly respond to our two outstanding letters to you and answer the following questions:

1. The ADA had full support of President Bush and now enjoys the support of President Clinton and candidate Bob Dole. An Ontarians with Disabilities Act would cut across the jurisdiction of several Ministries, thus requiring substantive involvement of and leadership by the premier in order to ensure passage of a meaningful Act. Why will you not agree to assist the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to arrange a meeting with the Premier, the Premier having steadfastly refused to meet with us to date?

2. Why will you not commit to any timetable for consultation on an Ontarians with Disabilities Act? We presented you with a reasonable set of guiding principles for consultation 4 months ago. You have not kept your commitment to respond to those proposals by midsummer. Indeed, we have received no objection from you or your staff as to the contents of those proposals. Why have you not committed to the principles we suggested for consultation?

3. Will you agree to meet with representatives of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee as soon as possible to kick-start this stalled process? When I proposed such a meeting during the formal question-and-answer portion of your speech to the A.R.C.H. annual general meeting a few weeks ago, you refused it. We would appreciate your reconsidering this position.

The members of the Ontarians win Disabilities Act Committee would appreciate your response to these questions within the next two weeks.

Yours truly,

M. David Lepofsky, Co-Chair, Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee

cc: Lyn McLeod, Howard Hampton, Marion Boyd, Dominic Agostino

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