ODA Committee Update
dated Sept. 22, 2004
posted Oct. 11, 2004
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
New Media Coverage Of Recent ODA Committee London Region's Conference
September 22, 2004
The Saturday, September 18, 2004 Toronto Star included a column by disability issues columnist Helen Henderson on the ODA Committee London Region's recent policy conference on strengthening the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. See the article below.
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Saturday September 18
Reason to hope Liberals will act on promises
What a difference a year makes.
Twelve months ago, the people of Ontario were labouring under a government
that had critically injured the education system, brought chaos to the
electricity market and systematically ground down anyone who moves,
communicates or processes information differently from the self-absorbed
crew that inhabited the corridors of power.
But the ruling Conservatives fatally underestimated one thing: the
electorate, which was about to turf them out. They may have dashed our
spirits but they couldn't break them.
For Ontario's 1.5 million people with disabilities, the Liberal takeover
crew at Queen's Park showed promise. In the run-up to the Oct. 2 election,
they had addressed many central issues, pledging, among other things to
scrap the previous government's sloppy, ineffective Ontarians With
Disabilities Act (ODA)
Citizenship Minister Marie Bountrogianni promised to introduce a new,
effective act by this fall. Last week, at a London, Ontario forum, she
renewed that pledge, which means that in the next couple of months, we
should see something concrete.
The forum was organized by the Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee,
one of the most vocal advocates for change. It was dedicated to the memory
of Michael Lewis, the blind musician whose song "Still Waiting" became an
anthem for the disability community. And it made history for a number of
For one thing, it marked the first time a provincial minister responsible
for disabilities issues had accepted the committee's invitation to speak at
one of its forums. (From 1995 to 2003, five successive Conservative
ministers turned them down flat.)
In addition, it drew Labour Minister Chris Bentley, who also spoke in favour
of a strong, effective ODA. And it gave the committee a chance to air its
discussion paper on ways to create an effective compliance and enforcement
process for disability legislation.
Among other things, the paper notes that "even when the law requires
barriers against persons with disabilities to be removed and prevented, this
doesn't lead most to act unless there is an effective compliance/enforcement
I wasn't at the forum but, by all accounts, it was full of hope.
"It was quite a thrill hearing the words from two cabinet ministers," says
Michael Lewis' widow, Kathy.
In notes for her speech, Bountrogianni said she has been working other
government members, including Bentley and Agriculture Minister Steve Peters,
a long-time ODA advocate, to introduce the necessary legislation "within one
year of our election.
"It would be a mistake for me as one minister to deal with the issues on my
own," she said. "It cannot be the focus of just one ministry or even one
government. It must be the focus of us all."
Encouraging words. Let's hope Social Services Minister Sandra Pupatello is
among those listening.
Last month, Pupatello announced that three institutions for adults with
developmental disabilities will be closed in 2009, a decision that will
affect some 1,000 residents.
The shutdown of the Huronia, Rideau and southwestern regional centres in
Orillia, Smith Falls and Chatham will complete plans to move developmentally
disabled adults into a flexible community setting, Pupatello said.
The aim of giving all people with disabilities the option of having their
needs met in the community is commendable, but it will work only if
community resources are significantly increased.
In the past, too many people moved out of institutions have found themselves
Cash-strapped communities lack the wherewithal to meet their needs and the
province short-changes them.
Pupatello says Ontario will invest up to $110 million over the next four
years to put community supports in place. Will that funding materialize? And
will it be enough? Or will we see even more families stretched to the
breaking point trying to make up for Queen's Park's abandoned promises?
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