December 16, 1998
Wednesday, December 16, 1998: For Immediate Release
Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DISABILITY COALITION INVOKES FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT AS LAST RESORT TO FORCE HARRIS GOVERNMENT TO REVEAL DOCUMENTS ON DISABILITY BILL
Wednesday, December 16, 1998: The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, a broad-based province-wide coalition, has filed for a legal review under the Freedom of Information Act to force the Harris Government to disclose briefs and submissions it received from the public before it introduced its widely-criticized disability bill, Bill 83. Last summer, the Harris Government conducted what it called a "public consultation" prior to introducing Bill 83. Frustrated with four months of Harris Government stalling, delays and technical arguments, the ODA Committee has turned to Ontario's Freedom of Information Commissioner to help force the Harris Government to release to the public the briefs and submissions it received during its consultation process.
"Why is the Harris Government so afraid to release this information, now, before this bill is fully debated in the Legislature? The Government claims that their empty, 3-page, do-nothing bill is a balanced response to the input the Government received. But we have tried in vain for four months to get access to that information which the public has a right to see," said David Lepofsky, Co-Chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committtee.
Bill 83 has been resoundingly denounced across Ontario. The ODA Committee is asking for strong and effective legislation to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for one and a half million Ontarians with disabilities. But Bill 83 does not require a single barrier to be removed anywhere ever.
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. In October, 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 Government then introduced Bill 83 in late November, which violates all 11 clauses of that resolution.
"We regret that we have to resort to the legal process under the Freedom of Information Act, but the Harris Government has left us no alternative", said Lepofsky. Bill 83 received first reading on November 23. The Harris Government has not revealed its plans on whether this bill will receive second reading before year's end.
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