November 24, 1998
MAJOR DISABILITY COALITION CALLS NEW HARRIS DISABILITY ACT AN EMPTY, CRUEL SHAM
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 1998: The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, a broad-based province-wide, non-partisan coalition, will hold a news conference today at 10:30 a.m. in the Queen's Park Media Studio to announce its strategy in response to the introduction of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act on Monday, Nov. 23, 1998.
"What the Government introduced yesterday is not a bill, it is simply three short pages of smoke and mirrors which the Government hopes will hide the fact that the Premier has broken his election promise to one and a half million people with disabilities," said David Lepofsky, Co-Chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
"That's alot of voters to betray. What we need is a law that will remove the barriers that people with disabilities face in their every day life. What we got requires nothing to be done. It does not even address the vast majority of barriers that we face. Of those it addresses, the ones within the Ontario Government, it does not require a single barrier to be removed. It gives us no rights, no way to enforce it, and no remedies. It even goes so far as to forbid the courts from enforcing it. It's a cruel insult to Ontarians with disabilities."
In the last election Premier Harris promised the ODA Committee that he would work with them to introduce and pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term, a law to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for people with disabilities. Last month the Ontario legislature unanimously passed a resolution calling for this new law to be strong, effective, mandatory, and to apply to all sectors of society. The Harris bill violates all 11 clauses of that resolution. It also disregards the overwhelming feedback which the Government received from the disability community during last summer's consultation process.
"Its a farcical do-nothing bill, that is even worse than the Government■s feeble discussion paper distributed this summer" said Lepofsky. The Government's Discussion Paper declared as government policy that "Everyone has a role in preventing and removing barriers." This bill proclaims the opposite policy saying that no one has to do anything meaningful to remove barriers.
"The Premier has unequivocally broken his promise to work together with us to develop this law. He has refused to even meet with us from the day he took office until the day this bill was introduced. What's worse, this empty bill breaks his promise to deliver a new Act in his first term to get rid of the barriers which people with disabilities face. With an election looming, the Ontario public will agree with us that people with disabilities deserve much better", said Lepofsky.
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