June 22, 2001
Part 1: WHAT NEW CITIZENSHIP MINISTER CAM JACKSON IS SAYING ABOUT THE ODA
Part 2: RECENT ODA MEDIA COVERAGE
WHAT NEW CITIZENSHIP MINISTER CAM JACKSON
IS SAYING ABOUT THE ODA
We want to bring to your attention two recent statements by the
new Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson on the subject of the
proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act which he is responsible
for developing. We set out these statements here without
commenting on their content or the accuracy of what is said. If
you want to give us feedback on your thoughts regarding these,
feel free to send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
First, a quotation of Minister Jackson was included in the item
on disability barriers and the ODA on TV Ontario's Studio 2
program on Thursday, June 14, 2001. Minister Jackson stated:
"As the Minister, my responsibility is to bring in the
legislation this year. Clearly, in my discussions with the
disabilities community, they've indicated a willingness to reach
common ground, that their views are not as rigid as they were six
years ago. And I think that's going to go a long way in order to
make sure that we can bring in a leading-edge piece of disability
legislation that will be leading-edge for all of Canada."
Second, Abilities Magazine Summer 2001 included an interview with
Minister Jackson on page 20. Here is the text of that published
ACTION FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES?
An Interview with the Hon. Cam Jackson
People with disabilities in Ontario have been waiting for an
Ontarians with Disabilities Act ever since the provincial
Conservative government made a commitment in its 1995 pre-
election campaign. Yet, although the push for an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act has only increased since that time, the
disability community has yet to see a piece of legislation that
satisfactorily supports their right to equal participation in
In the recent Throne Speech, people with disabilities were once
again handed a promise for legislation that would ensure their
rights. Does this renewed commitment signal good news?
Raymond Cohen, Editor-in-Chief of ABILITIES, recently posed this
question and others to Cam Jackson, Minister of Citizenship and
minister responsible for seniors, equal opportunity and
Cam Jackson, MPP for Burlington, was first elected to the
Legislature in 1985 and has been a member of Cabinet since 1995,
with his first assignment as Minister Responsible for Workers'
Compensation Reform. In August, 1996, Cam was given the mandate
to create a new Seniors Secretariat as Minister Responsible for
In July of 1998, he was appointed Canada's first provincial
Minister of Long Term Care with continued responsibility for
seniors. In June, 1999, Cam was appointed Ontario's first
Minister of Tourism.
Cam was appointed Minister of Citizenship in February, 2001. In
his new role, he is responsible for ensuring equal opportunity
for all Ontarians -- overseeing the development of legislation
for people with disabilities, the Ontario Human Rights Commission
and cultural diversity. The Minister is ensuring that the
Ministry of Citizenship plays an active role in removing barriers
to growth and employment across Ontario.
Q: Minister, it is no secret that you have inherited a hotbed of
controversy regarding the 1.5 million people with disabilities in
this province. There is a longstanding expectation that your
department would implement various actions, most notably an
Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Premier Harris promised this when first elected back in 1995.
Since that time, all three ministers who have preceded you in
this portfolio, in the view of many Ontarians with disabilities,
failed to produce. Can people with disabilities in Ontario expect
anything different from you? If so, what and why and when?
A: As Minister of Citizenship, I am personally committed to
supporting people with disabilities so that they can receive the
same opportunities and benefits as all Ontarians. We have a
strong record of supporting measures that improve opportunities
for the people of this province and we intend to sustain that
There's no question this government has done an excellent job on
managing its fiscal deficit; now it's time to do an equivalent
job in managing the human deficits faced by persons with
The Premier has asked an experienced minister with a long
personal commitment to equality issues to build towards a new
The recent Throne Speech confirms a commitment to "seek common
ground and shared solutions to address the needs of persons with
disabilities, and take action, including the introduction of
legislation, to build on its commitment."
I'm concerned that the debate on this complex and sensitive issue
has fallen into a discussion around timing and promises when what
should have happened is a focus on educating the public on the
struggle persons with disabilities face daily. No legislation
will be effective, nor will it find broad public support, if the
public doesn't fully understand why change is needed.
Q: An ongoing concern for people with disabilities in this
province has been the lack of opportunity to input, to be
consulted with, regarding the ODA. As the minister responsible,
how do you intend to address this issue?
A: There is no question, consultation is extremely important and
should be inclusive and representative of all sectors that future
legislation will impact on. There is a broad base of persons who
have a direct interest in this legislation. We, as a government,
need to make the most of our opportunities to gain their input,
Since my appointment as Minister of Citizenship, I've met with
representatives from over 50 organizations in 10 cities across
the province -- most of them from the disability community. I
will continue to meet with organizations, municipalities and
representatives from the private sector to build a new consensus
among all the parties of this leading-edge legislation -- not
only those who have waited for results, but also those who will
be called upon to make the changes, to pay for the changes and,
most importantly, to understand how these changes will improve
the quality of life in Ontario.
That's why one of the first calls I made was to the Association
of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and discovered that disability
issues was not on its radar screen. I've asked AMO to devote part
of its energies to work with government on a plan to implement
standards for improved access in municipalities and begin a more
focused and inclusive discussion on paratransit support when
raising transit issues with both the federal and provincial
Q: In many ways, it seems, the rubber meets the proverbial road
on the issue of mandatory versus voluntary compliance with the
terms of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The concern is that
unless the act has teeth, service providers and business owners
will not go the distance necessary to create real access in
Ontario. Would you comment on this?
A: No government should ask of another what it's not prepared to
do itself. To date, no input has been received on what mandatory
measures both the private sector and the municipalities would be
willing to do and when.
Our government tabled Bill 83 in the fall of 1998 and there was
no opportunity for feedback because it never went past first
reading. All that was said was that "we don't want it, it didn't
go far enough," but no one has articulated specific
recommendations on how mandatory or voluntary measures can be
I have heard in my consultations from the disability community
that legislation alone is not the solution, that educating the
public and promoting awareness is necessary to remove barriers
and create an environment that is attitudinally accessible.
I'm also encouraged to see the many voluntary actions taken by
municipalities and businesses to entrench accessibility in their
decisions. One of my first visits was to Windsor where I met with
the municipality and the Windsor Advisory Committee on
Disabilities. They have done an outstanding job. We can learn
from their good example, build on their positive experience and
demonstrate to all municipalities what can be achieved.
Q: There seems to be some confusion as to who is responsible for
what regarding disability rights in this province -- and, in
fact, throughout Canada. Where do you see the line drawn between
the various levels of government?
A: Improving opportunities for persons with disabilities is a
shared responsibility across all sectors of society and all
levels of government. This is a complex and sensitive issue that
doesn't fit in a neat legislative box. There can't be one law
that deals with all of the concerns of people with disabilities
any more than there can be one law that deals with all of the
concerns of women, or men, or children, or any of us for that
matter. We must seek clarity first in order for commitment to
Q: Would you consider offering a forecast as to what you would
personally like to see addressed by an ODA?
A: I'm still listening. I'm still learning and am hoping to be
influenced more by the real needs of people I meet and not the
sum of the legislative work to date in Bill 83 by the
Q: The Ontario Human Rights Commission has recently recognized
the need to proactively pursue the rights of people with
disabilities in Ontario -- their rights to access public
facilities, their rights to employment-related resources, etc.
How do you feel about this initiative -- and how does this
harmonize, if at all, with your plans regarding the ODA?
A: I publicly commended the OHRC for this initiative that helps
clarify the rights of people with disabilities. Not only is it a
call to all employers, private and public sector alike, to work
cooperatively to remove barriers to employment, it is also
further proof that the rights accorded to the people of Ontario
under the Human Rights Code are respected and protected.
My work in a previous portfolio at the Workers' Compensation
Board taught me the importance of protecting the rights of
vulnerable people in a quasi-judicial setting. I believe the
Ontario Human Rights Code is one of the finest pieces of
legislation in North America, but it can be better. I'm committed
to bringing forward amendments to strengthen the Commission. A
strong and effective OHRC is the strongest foundation from which
to build Ontario's first Disabilities Act.
Q: How do you feel about work that has been addressed on behalf
of people with disabilities in general in this province since
your party has come to office? Are there any initiatives that you
feel particularly strongly about one way or another?
A: Our government spends more on services for people with
disabilities than any government in the history of this province.
Since 1995, our government has introduced more than $800-million
on new programs and spent close to $6-billion to expand
opportunities for people with disabilities.
Only a strong economy can offer the promise of a better quality
of life in Ontario and I am pleased with the progress made with
our government's fiscal restraint.
As I said earlier, it's time to manage our human deficit. I'm
committed to inspiring my colleagues to work with me to build on
our government's commitment and remove traditional barriers to
Ontario's disability community.
Among all the great media coverage that the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act issue continues to receive are the following:
* On June 22, 2001 at 7:30 p.m., Aurora Cable TV will broadcast the June 21, 2001 All-Candidates Debate in the Vaughan King Aurora by-election which had a major focus on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Congratulations to the York Region of The ODA Committee for making this such a success and getting the ODA issue so much profile in that by-election.
* On Saturday, June 16, 2001, the London Free Press published a tremendous column on the ODA and the work of the ODA Committee by Helen Connell, executive director of the United Way of London and Middlesex. (See below)
* On June 13, 2001, the Toronto Star included an excellent letter to the editor by the ever-active ODA supporter Kevin MacGregor pointing out that the Star left out the ODA issue when it reported on Premier Harris's six year record in office. See below.
* On June 21, 2001,, the Era-Banner included an excellent letter to the editor by another tireless ODA supporter, Elaine Stewart, raising the ODA issue in the Vaughan King Aurora by- election. See below.
London Free Press
Saturday, June 16, 2001
Disabilities Act would enable many
They've written letters. Made polite phone calls. They've tried
e-mails. They've held workshops. They've stood in the rain,
passing out information. They sent their petitions off to Queen's
Park. They received the backing of 23 municipalities, including
They are the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) committee and
they are determined to force the rest of us to make some room for
the 1.5 million Ontarians who are considered disabled.
They want access to jobs so they can support themselves and
families. They want to be able to drop by the library without
having to book transportation three days ahead.
They don't want to be limited in where they live just because
designers make hallways and doorways too narrow to manoeuvre with
a walker or wheelchair. They want to be able to enjoy an evening
out at a restaurant without being humiliated because that
washroom labeled accessible isn't big enough to swing a cat, let
alone manipulate a wheelchair.
When the committee approached provincial politicians in 1995
seeking meaningful legislation, they received a commitment from
all three political parties. Why wouldn't they? It's hard to
imagine someone saying, "I am opposed to making laws that will
allow disabled people to live normal lives." And therein lies the
The provincial government has produced one flabby attempt at
legislation that was soundly trounced by disabled people and
their supporters as being too soft and too ineffective.
As good opposition politicians, the Liberals and NDP have been
pressuring the government to do something. When the Conservatives
failed to hold open public consultations on this issue, Liberal
disability critic and Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Steve Peters
even did his own 15-city public hearings.
Opposition support has been a boost to the ODA committee, but
this is an easy issue in which to play the hero. The need to
remove the barriers facing disabled people has been around for a
generation and both opposition parties had a chance when they
were governing to make these kinds of changes.
But there will not be any progress on removing barriers until we
stop tiptoeing around the real money issues impeding legislation.
There will be significant costs attached to making communities'
barrier-free. But there are also lots of changes that can be done
now at little or no additional costs, such as designing buildings
so doorways are large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
The ODA committee has suggested government, business and
community leaders sit down and work out a plan on a sector-by-
sector basis that contains reasonable regulations and time lines.
But this process demands open and honest debate and I believe
business and political leaders are afraid to say what's on their
minds for fear of being seen to be putting profits ahead of the
needs of the disabled. Until the objections are laid out,
however, it's impossible to separate what are real concerns from
easily resolved or unwarranted fears.
And that's one of the biggest tragedies. We're at a time where we
are seeing a burst of construction activity in the public and
private sectors. Without intending it, the people designing those
buildings are continuing to create new barriers that eventually
will have to be changed and at a greater cost.
The Conservative government is expected to bring back another
bill. I hope they find the courage to create one with real teeth
in it. Then we can start debating what's do-able and set time
lines. The ODA committee knows there will have to be compromises.
But other countries have stronger legislation, including the
U.S., Ireland, Great Britain and Australia. We can learn from
their success and avoid their mistakes.
The number of disabled people will grow substantially with the
greying of baby boomers. But even if you're able-bodied all your
life, you still stand to benefit from creating a more inclusive
As Cathy Vincent-Linderoos, a Londoner and member of the ODA
committee, points out, the goal of the ODA is not to drive up the
costs of doing business, "Rather, we want to be able to do more
business, hold more jobs and pay more taxes."
That's hardly too much to ask.
Helen Connell is executive director of the United Way of London
and Middlesex. Her column appears every other Saturday.
June 13, 2001
No Mention of Disabilities
Re: Six years later, National Report June 9th
I was disappointed in your article covering the six years of Mike
Harris' stewardship in Ontario. As this paper is aware, the
government has failed to provide Ontarians with a strong and
effective act for Ontarians with disabilities. Harris promised
this act in writing to Ontarians in 1995. He also promised to
work with Disabilities Act Committee to put together this act.
He has yet to meet with the committee. This failure affects
every person in Ontario, yet was not mentioned at all in your
Era-Banner Thursday, June 21, 2001
MPPs must not ignore issues for disabled
More 1.5 million Ontarians are disabled. I am one of them. As we
baby-boomers age, there will be more of us.
Prior to his first election win in 1995, Premier Mike Harris
promised to enact The Ontarians With Disabilities Act. This
promise has been broken, despite the energy of many people,
including other politicians.
When I asked MPP Frank Klees during an open forum to hold
meetings for disabled people in his riding, he promised to do so,
but would not set a date.
Only when a letter to the editor appeared in print did he receive
sufficient telephone calls to set aside one day for
Unfortunately, the advertising was poor and he gave only two days
notice, making it difficult for disabled people to arrange
I am a piano teacher, writer and community worker, so obviously,
being physically disabled does not mean that I cannot be a
productive member of society. Tax dollars should be ensuring that
we are all treated equally.
I urge everyone to go to the website of a non-partisan volunteer
group that works tirelessly to have Harris live up to his
When attending all-candidate meetings, please ask each candidate
where they stand on The Ontarians With Disabilities Act. We
cannot allow another MPP to ignore this extremely important piece
Elaine Stewart, Vandorf
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Last updated June 23, 2001