Monday, July 13, 1998 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TORONTO - Today, after three years of Harris Government delays and relentless pressure from the disability community, Citizenship Minister Isabel Bassett has finally released a discussion paper leading to enactment of a new disability rights law.  In the 1995 election, Premier Harris promised that in his first term, he would enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. He promised to work together with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to develop this law.  Yet since the election, Premier Harris has repeatedly refused to even meet with the broad-based coalition.  His successive Ministers of Citizenship have generally been evasive and uncooperative.

The new government consultation paper (posted today on the Citizenship Ministry web site) invites written submissions by September 4.  It includes a vital government recognition that people with disabilities still face barriers when seeking to participate in so many aspects of daily life.  It accepts that these barriers must be removed, and that existing laws and policies alone will not do the trick.

Yet, in seeking public input on how to solve this enormous problem, the Discussion Paper publicly reveals two fatal Government policy decisions already made without any public consultation.  Only voluntary measures will be considered in the fundamental area of employment.  No new agency will be established to enforce this new law.

"The government has doomed this new law in one of life's most important areas even before the consultation begins," said David Lepofsky, ODA Committee Co-Chair.  "The Government must first hear from people with disabilities before jumping to such enormous decisions.  We urge the Premier to retract these decisions, and give us all a chance to have real and meaningful input on them.  In the Throne Speech, the Government said it wants to change its ways and start to listen to the people. Here's a good place to start."

The ODA committee is now calling on the 17% of the public who have a disability, and all others (who will likely face a disability in their lifetime) to contact the Citizenship Minister to ask for a chance to make a presentation in person during the consultation process.  The government has made no public announcement about the consultation or whether or not there will be meetings with MPPS around the province as the ODA Committee urged.  "Even though the government has chosen to release its discussion paper in the middle of the summer with many on holidays, it's vital that Ontarians with disabilities, and everyone who shares our desire to get rid of the barriers that keep us from fully participating in society, now write the Citizenship Minister to demand removal of the serious restrictions on the consultation process and that it give people a chance to participate in public consultation meetings. Contact: David Lepofsky (416) 968-6446