ODA Committee Update
dated April 11, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
ODA COMMITTEE WRITES PREMIER EVES TO URGE THAT UPCOMING THRONE SPEECH INCLUDE COMMITMENTS TO AMEND ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT 2001 TO MAKE IT STRONG AND EFFECTIVE
April 11, 2003
The Ontario Government has invited input from the public on what priorities the Government should announce in its upcoming Throne Speech, to take place at the end of the month. A Throne Speech is where the Government sets its priorities for the upcoming sitting of the Legislature. This Throne Speech is widely seen as the Government's precursor for its platform in the upcoming election.
On April 11, 2003, to offer input into this consultation, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee wrote Premier Ernie Eves. (See text of letter below.) It recommends that the Government announce in its Throne Speech that it will amend the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 to make it strong and effective within the next year, that it work together with the ODA Committee to develop these amendments, and that it hold public hearings on any amendments brought forward.
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE
c/o Marg Thomas
1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto ON M4G 3E8
Tel: (Voice direct) 416-480-7686
Voice mail: 416-480-7012
TTY: c/o Susan Main 416 964-0023 ex. 343
Web site: www.odacommittee.net
April 11, 2003
Premier Ernie Eves
Legislative Building, Room 281
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1
Dear Premier Eves,
Re: Ontarians with Disabilities Act
I write on behalf of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. We are a province-wide coalition united to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for the 1.9 million persons with disabilities in this province.
Your Government has called for public input into your upcoming Throne Speech. We want to offer our input into your consultation on your Government's priorities. We are widely recognized for leading the ongoing charge over the past eight and a half years for the enactment of a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
In 1995 your Party promised to pass the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in its first term in office, legislation needed to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for persons with disabilities. The new law, which your Government ultimately passed in December 2001, was very disappointing to so many. This is because it was too narrow and weak in its reach. Even after your Government passed its Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2001, when people with disabilities continue to face barriers which an organization is not willing to voluntarily remove, we are still left to fight those barriers one barrier at a time by filing individual human rights complaints.
During public hearings into your Government's proposed ODA bill in the fall of 2001, there were widespread calls for your proposed law to be amended before it was passed, in order to:
(a) make it mandatory under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act that
barriers facing persons with disabilities be removed and prevented. Your bill made barrier removal and prevention voluntary;
(b) to make the legislation apply to the private sector and the full
public sector. Your bill only applies to parts of the public sector and not the broad private sector;
(c) to require that covered public sector and private sector organizations
make effective annual accessibility plans and to require that these plans be implemented. Your Government's bill only required certain public sector organizations to make annual accessibility plans. However it does not require that these plans be effective, not weak. Your bill also did not require that these accessibility plans ever be implemented;
(d) require the Government to make provincial mandatory accessibility
standards within a specified time frame. Your bill permits the Government to do this, but it doesn't require your Government to ever do so. In the 16 months since your Government passed this legislation, it has made no mandatory accessibility standards, and has announced no timetable for doing so;
(e) to provide for an effective independent enforcement mechanism and
effective remedies. Your bill provides for only an extremely limited enforcement power in one section. Even then, your Government has not proclaimed in force that one provision, section 21, in the 16 months since this law was passed, and has not set a date for proclaiming it in force.
We therefore ask your Government to make commitments in your Throne Speech concerning the need for amendments to be made to your Government's Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to make it strong and effective. This is one of several important issues that are very important to Ontarians with disabilities. Specifically, we ask you to commit to:
1. Immediately proclaim in force section 21 of the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. It is the only section of that legislation, passed over 15 months ago, which has not been proclaimed in force.
2. Pass, within one year of your upcoming Throne Speech, amendments to the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, to bring it into compliance with all 11 principles for this legislation which the Ontario Legislature unanimously adopted in a resolution on October 29, 1998 to make this legislation strong and effective. This would include, at a minimum, the substance of the amendments to this legislation which we proposed in the fall of 2001 and which your Government defeated in the Standing Committee on Finance on December 11, 2001. These amendments would achieve each of the five improvements listed from (a) to (e) above.
3. Hold open, fully -accessible public hearings when the Legislature
considers these amendments.
4. As Premier, personally meet with representatives of the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act Committee, and for your Government to work together with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to develop these amendments. Both you and Premier Mike Harris refused each of the requests to meet with the ODA Committee since your Government took office in 1995.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. As always, we would welcome any opportunity to do whatever we can to help your Government implement such commitments.
David Lepofsky, C.M.
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
cc: The Hon. Carl DeFaria 326-9338
Chris Stockwell 325-7755
Dalton McGuinty 325-9895
Dwight Duncan 325-2201
Steve Peters 325-7262
Ernie Parsons 325-4757
Howard Hampton 325-8222
Peter Kormos 325-7067
Marilyn Churley 325-3252
Tony Martin 325-3720
Jeff Adams, Chair, Ontario Accessibility Advisory Council
Nadia Temple, Director, Ontario Accessibility Directorate
NDP's 2003 election campaign pledge on the ODA dd March 1, 2003
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Last updated April 15, 2003