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Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA


ODA Update
May 20, 2001


Only 187 more days until the November 23, 2001 deadline for the
Legislature to pass into law a strong and effective Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. Here is news on action on the ODA front:

* On Monday, May 14, 2001, a Liberal MPP introduced a petition into
the Ontario Legislature from northwestern Ontario which called for
reforms in the area of the Ontario Disability Support Program ODSP.
It includes the ODA and links the ODA issue with problems involving
the ODSP. See the text below.

* The next day, Tuesday, May 15, 2001, the ODA came up again in the Legislature in two contexts. First Liberal MPP Bruce Crozier made a statement about the ODA issue, and described the ODA Committee Windsor Essex Region's successful May 11, 2001 Birthday Party in recognition of the 6th Anniversary of Inaction on Premier Harris' promise to enact the ODA. Second, during a debate on that day marking activities by the Ontario Association for Community Living and its related local associations in working towards better rights and services for persons with intellectual disabilities, the ODA was raised by Opposition MPPs. See excerpts about the ODA from this longer debate, set out below.

* The ODA came up for a third day in a row on Wednesday, May 16,
in the Legislature. Liberal Disability Critic Ernie Parsons
made a statement in the Legislature calling on Premier Harris to
finally agree to meet with us. See below.

The day after that, Thursday, May 17, 2001, Liberal Disability
Critic Ernie Parsons issued a news release. It congratulated the
Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission for a
statement recommending that the Ontario Government enact the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act. See below.

A rather busy four days on the ODA front, no?


Ontario Hansard Monday 14 May 2001


Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): We're launching
a very important petition campaign related to cost-of-living
adjustment needs for those who are living on Ontario disability
support. The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the recipients of benefits under the Ontario Disability
Act have not received a cost-of-living increase since a $2.50
increase in 1987; and

"Whereas the cost of living in Ontario has increased in every one
of the years since, especially for basic needs such as housing,
food, utilities, transportation, clothing and household goods; and

"Whereas disabled Ontarians are recognized under the Ontario
Disability Support Program Act, 1997, and as such have the right to
have their basic needs met, including adequate housing, a proper
and healthy diet, a bed that does not make them sicker and clothing
that fits and is free of stains and holes; and

"Whereas their basic needs are no longer being met because the
Ministry of Social Services has not increased the shelter and basic
needs allowance of disabled Ontarians eligible to receive benefits
under the Ontario disability support program to reflect the
increased costs of shelter and basic needs (and in fact have
reduced these benefits for those recipients who receive a
disability benefit under the Canada pension plan); and

"Whereas a new Ontarians with Disabilities Act has yet to be
introduced to help protect the thousands of vulnerable people in
Ontario who are dependent on others for their basic needs and care
and who are eligible for benefits under the Ontario
Disability Support Program Act, 1997;

"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, request the
Ontario Legislature to urge the government to respect their own
definition of basic needs and provide a cost-of-living increase to
recipients of benefits through the Ontario Disability Support
Program Act that is sufficient to cover the increased costs of
their basic needs as of 2001 prices, and that this benefit not be
reduced as a result of increases in the Canada pension plan

This was sent to me by Roslyn Bergman, with the Canadian Mental
Health Association in Thunder Bay, who is helping lead this
campaign. I have hundreds of signatures here. There will be many,
many more to come. I'm proud to sign it.


Tuesday 15 May 2001


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex): Last week I attended a party with the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act committee -- Windsor-Essex. It was
the sixth anniversary recognition of the Ontario government's doing
absolutely nothing about an Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

They asked me to bring six gifts to Premier Harris. One is a fact
sheet outlining the demographic needs of Ontarians with
disabilities; two, Ontarians with disabilities buttons, a
reminder to the Premier that four out of five Ontarians support an
effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act; three, a copy of the
Ontario Human Rights Commission report that promotes and clarifies
the rights of persons with disabilities. Another gift is a
blueprint for a strong and effective Ontarians with
Disabilities Act --this was previously given to the Premier.
Another gift is a symbolic $100 bill, a reminder that money is not
a barrier to the implementation of an effective Ontarians with
Disabilities Act; and six, a ballot that's a reminder that 1.5
million Ontarians with disabilities vote.

Ontarians with disabilities are not different. They just do things
differently. They do things well and with dignity.
Premier, give Ontarians with disabilities dignity. Give them an
effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

I am pleased to welcome as well people from the Association for
Community Living in my community and those from across Ontario who
are with us today.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): I'm very proud
and honoured to rise today on behalf of Dalton McGuinty, my leader,
and the members of the Ontario Liberal caucus to speak on this
unanimous consent motion and to offer our enthusiastic support in
recognizing May 15 as Community Living Day in Ontario.

I would first of all take the opportunity to welcome the many
distinguished guests from the Ontario Association for Community
Living and member associations from across the province who join us
today. I understand that well over 100 representatives,
including clients, board members, managers, caregivers and
friends, are with us here to celebrate Community Living Day at
Queen's Park. We thank you.

Today is more than just an opportunity for us as legislators to
honour and celebrate the accomplishments of an organization that
has worked for over 50 years to bring communities and people
together. The work it does now in more than 100 communities across
Ontario is surely worth recognizing 365 days a year.

Today is also more than a chance for us to recognize the
dedicated staff and caregivers who, day in and day out, provide
opportunity, hope and friendship to persons with intellectual
disabilities. The tremendous dedicated work they do, which often
seems undervalued and unheralded, is truly priceless.

Today is a day when we can truly look at the concept of community
living, what it implies and what it means. To me, community living
is a rallying cry that continues to resonate in community after
community in the lives of persons with disabilities right across
this province. In many ways it's a cry for help. It's a plea for
dignity, independence and inclusion. It is a constant battle for
fairness, for equality, and for recognition.

Community living is what we as legislators should be pushing and
fighting for each and every day for the more than 1.5 Ontarians
with disabilities. The right to citizenship and participation that
we all take for granted is often denied to those who can't fend for
themselves. Community living is about giving the best supports we
can to families and parents of children and adults with
developmental and intellectual disabilities who struggle every day
to break down barriers, to overcome prejudices, and are in a
constant struggle to find needed services. Community living is
truly what the Ontario Association for Community Living is all

For my brother Mark, who lives independently thanks to the
wonderful staff at the Lakehead Association for Community Living
located in my Thunder Bay riding, and to all the brothers and
sisters and sons and daughters who you have in your care, we thank
you with all our hearts. The Ontario Association for
Community Living not only started the movement 50-plus years ago;
it has changed and shaped our society for the better.

I'm pleased to hear the member opposite speak so strongly in
support of Community Living Day here in Ontario. While
disagreements between my party and hers perhaps do abound, I will
certainly take her at her word that she's committed to continue the
fight for community living, and the rallying cry of what it means,
at the Tory caucus table. Perhaps she can start by
standing in her place and asking the Premier to fulfill a promise
made six long years ago, a promise that would make a huge
difference in the fight for equality and fairness for Ontarians
with disabilities. I'm referring, of course, to this government's
failure to bring forward and enact a real and meaningful
Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Community living is about inclusion. Without real legislative
protection, the hopes and dreams of many Ontarians will be left
unrealized, unfulfilled and untapped. My leader, Dalton McGuinty,
and our disabilities critic, the member for Prince Edward-
Hastings, and indeed all the members on this side of the House will
not rest until this government recognizes that an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act is about human rights, removing barriers and
overcoming obstacles. It certainly is more than the legislation
that's been brought forward in this House so far. We need a real
and meaningful Ontarians with Disabilities Act. ...

Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): On behalf of the NDP caucus, it's
my pleasure to acknowledge our support for Community Living Day at
Queen's Park. I want to commend the members of the Ontario
Association for Community Living for lobbying all three political
parties to recognize this day. We welcome our guests here this

We would also like to thank all those municipalities that are
making May Community Awareness Month and holding celebrations for
awareness of community living.

I have some remarks which are non-partisan, but in light of the
comments made by the parliamentary assistant, I really feel I am
compelled to place on the record the following facts with respect
to this government's funding of this important sector. The facts I
refer to come directly from a brief that was provided to us by the
Ontario Association for Community Living in the lead-up to the 2001
provincial budget. I would like to raise three facts, and these are
from the association. ...

Finally, it demands putting in place an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act which will truly remove the barriers facing those
with intellectual disabilities and allow them to
participate fully in all aspects of community life.

I have always felt like I was part of a community, and I suspect
most members would feel the same. I don't know what it's like to
live outside of or be segregated from the mainstream. I don't want
to know what it's like either. No one should be excluded from the
community because of a disability. No one should have to live in an
institution because of an intellectual disability.

We have an obligation to integrate some of Ontario's most
vulnerable citizens into our schools, our workplaces, our
recreational facilities, our neighbourhoods. It's the right thing
to do. It's what we need to commit to today, on Community Living


Ontario Hansard Wednesday 16 May 2001


Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): In 1998 this House
unanimously supported a resolution by the member from Windsor-St
Clair to establish 11 principles for an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. June, which is approaching, next month, will mark
the sixth anniversary since the Premier committed to passing an ODA
act. In that time the citizens of Ontario have continued to suffer.

There is an obligation, as we have been reminded through the media
in the past several weeks, for an MPP to meet with each and every
constituent and to advocate for each and every constituent. The
Premier has on 27 occasions refused in writing to meet with the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. When they were just down
the hallway here, the Premier refused to go down the hallway and
meet with them. But now he is in Switzerland
committing to provide accessible accommodation and accessible
services for the participants in the Paralympics that will happen
here in 2008, hopefully.

Excellent idea. Great idea. It's long overdue that we commit to
that. But if the Premier can commit to support the removal of
barriers for visitors to the Olympics in 2008, surely he can take
and remove the barriers for the citizens of Ontario. He has an
obligation as Premier, whether he believes in a group or not or
whether he supports a group or not, to meet with each and every
citizen. I demand that the Premier find five minutes of time while
he's in town to meet with the ODA committee.


Press Release May 17th 2001


Queen's Park - Ernie Parsons, MPP for Prince Edward-Hastings and
Liberal Critic for Persons with Disabilities praised the call for
an Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) by Keith Norton,
Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).

In response to questioning on whether Ontario needs a
disabilities law, Mr. Norton stated that he would advise the
provincial government to pass such legislation.

"This is great news", Parsons declared. "Despite Mike Harris'
repeated promise to introduce and implement an ODA, we have yet to
see anything meaningful and effective for persons with
disabilities in this province", Parsons observed.

This call by the Commissioner reinforces the argument that
despite the advances in policy, the Ontario Human Rights
Commission can not be the only statutory vehicle used to remove and
prevent barriers to full inclusion for persons with
disabilities. "The OHRC is trying very hard but, it can't do
everything that is needed for persons with disabilities in
Ontario and I commend the Commissioner for saying so", Parsons

"We need both the Human Rights Commission and an ODA. If this
government is serious about disabilities issues, it will ensure
that the Commission works with an ODA to remove and prevent
barriers in this province", Parsons challenged.


Contact: Ernie Parsons, MPP Prince Edward-Hastings (416) 32-4700



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