ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES TO CONVERGE ON QUEEN'S PARK TO SHOW
THAT HARRIS CANNOT SNEAK WEAK DISABILITY BILL BY MEDIA AND PUBLIC
Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - The ODA Committee will hold a news
conference today at the Queen's Park Media Studio at 1:00 p.m.
At 3:00 p.m., Ontarians with disabilities will converge on
Queen's Park to show substantial public support for a strong
Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to tear down the barriers which
1.5 million of them face daily, and to show that the Ontario
Government cannot sneak a weak disability bill past the media and
"We have invited the three party leaders to meet with us at the
Legislature right after Question Period to show that Ontarians
care about a strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act to achieve a
barrier-free province," said David Lepofsky, chair of the ODA
Committee, a province-wide non-partisan grass roots coalition. "A
leaked draft Cabinet document revealed last month that the
Government has already mapped out cold, calculated and cruel
plans to try to slip through a bill that is neither strong nor
effective, and to dodge the media. We are here to show that those
cynical tactics won't work and that we are tenacious about
holding Mike Harris to his broken promises to us."
In the 1995 election, Premier Harris promised to enact the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term - legislation
needed to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for those who have a
disability now or in the future. He pledged to work together with
the ODA Committee to develop this law. He did neither. (See
CHRONOLOGY, attached.) Two years ago, the Harris Government
introduced a toothless three-page bill which did not require the
removal of a single barrier. Widely condemned across Ontario, it
died on the order paper days after first reading. In the 1999
election, the Harris Government promised public consultations, to
be followed by a stronger law. It committed in a unanimous 1999
all-party resolution to enact a "strong and effective
"We are tenacious. Our movement is growing and gaining even more
public support. We are not going away!" said Catherine Bremner,
mother of a teenaged son with a disability and a leader of the
ODA Committee's Durham Region, one of 21 ODA Committee Regions
across Ontario. "Responding to our local members, over 20
municipal councils have passed resolutions supporting the need
for this legislation. Our grassroots supporters are active right
across Ontario. Premier Harris can't truly believe that Ontarians
do not care about people with disabilities and their need for a
strong Disabilities Act."
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT - CHRONOLOGY
- May 24, 1995 - Mike Harris makes written election promise to
enact the ODA in his first term and to work personally with the
ODA Committee to develop it.
- May 16, 1996 - Ontario Legislature unanimously passes first of
three resolutions. Sponsored by NDP MPP Marion Boyd, resolution
calls on Harris Government to keep its ODA election promise.
- April 22, 1998 - ODA Committee delivers comprehensive brief to
the Legislature including a detailed blueprint for mandatory,
strong and effective legislation.
- July 13 to September 1998 - Ontario Government conducts closed,
invitation-only consultations in 8 cities on what to include in
- October 22, 1998 - Citizenship Minister Bassett presents
results of her consultations, using overhead slide presentation,
to ODA Committee representatives, three of whom are blind or
vision-impaired. When ODA Committee was later forced to resort to
the Freedom of Information legislation to compel disclosure of
documents from consultation process, it discovers that the
Minister's presentation was inaccurate and misleading.
- October 29, 1998 - Ontario Legislature unanimously passes
second of three ODA resolutions. Sponsored by Liberal MPP Dwight
Duncan, resolution calls for ODA to be passed which embodies 11
principles to make it mandatory, strong and effective.
- November 23, 1998 - Citizenship Minister Bassett introduces
Bill 83, a 3-page bill which was completely voluntary, applicable
only to the Ontario government and did not require any barriers
ever to be removed.
- December 17, 1998 - Bill 83 dies on the order paper after first
reading, after being widely condemned across Ontario.
- April 22, 1999 - Pre-election Throne Speech announces Bill 83
will not be re-introduced due to criticisms of it. New
consultation promised before new bill to be introduced.
- May - June 3, 1999 - Ontario election Campaign - Harris
Government promises strengthened ODA after more consultations.
Liberals and NDP promise strong and effective ODA complying with
Legislature's October 29, 1998 resolution.
- September 10, 1999 - ODA Committee presents proposal, prepared
at request of Citizenship Minister Helen Johns, that new ODA
public consultation take the form of an all-party Select
Committee of the Legislature to hold public hearings before a
bill is drafted.
- September 11, 1999 - London Free Press quotes Citizenship
Minister Johns stating that a new strong disabilities act is a
"huge priority for me."
- September 20-21, 1999 - NDP and Liberal Parties accept proposal
for Select Committee on the ODA to hold province-wide public
hearings. Government never responds to this proposal.
- October 21, 1999 - Throne Speech says Government's "goal" is to
introduce a "new action plan" this session and that consultations
- November 23, 1999 - On first anniversary of Bill 83's
introduction, Legislature unanimously passes third of three
resolutions. Sponsored by Liberal Steve Peters, resolution calls
for a "strong and effective" ODA to be passed no later than
November 23, 2001.
- Late January, 2000 - Minister Johns reveals during meeting with
Liberal MPP Steve Peters that she is already conducting
consultations, claims to be meeting weekly with disability
groups. Her personal calender, later produced when compelled
under Freedom of Information Act, contradicts this.
- January 31, 2000 - Liberal Disability Critic Steve Peters
announces that because the Government will not hold open hearings
on what to include in the ODA, the Liberal Party will hold a
province-wide ODA public consultation tour. Liberals hold public,
accessible hearings in 15 cities in March 2000.
- March 25, 2000 - Minister Johns states on London TV that her
Government had agreed to bring forward ODA action plan by June.
No action plan is announced in June.
- September 8, 2000 - Minister Johns meets with ODA Committee
delegation. She states she is open to considering all options,
for inclusion in ODA and is still holding consultations on ODA.
- October 4, 2000 - Liberal leader McGuinty reveals in
Legislature a leaked draft Cabinet document detailing Government
plans to introduce weak, toothless ODA this fall, and Government
strategy to avoid adverse media coverage. Leaked document's
August 28, 2000 date suggests Government's intentions were
determined before Minister John's September 8, 2000 meeting with
- October 25, 2000 - Premier's office again refuses ODA
Committee's request to meet with the Premier. Premier Harris
refused all previous requests.
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