ODA Press Release
February 21, 2001
Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Human Rights Commission Study
Shows Ontario Needs New Disability Law
Will Harris Keep His Promise To Enact It?
WEDNESDAY, February 21, 2001 - The Ontario Human Rights Commission's
new Discussion Paper on Accessible Transit Services for People with
Disabilities, unveiled this week, shows how much Ontario needs a strong,
effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to remove serious barriers facing
1.5 million people with disabilities when trying to use public transit. In
the 1995 election, Mike Harris promised a new disability law, needed to
tackle barriers in public transit, as well as other aspects of Ontario life.
Almost six years, two elections, and four Citizenship Ministers later,
Harris still has not kept his promise.
"This excellent Discussion Paper, by an independent agency of the Ontario
government, reveals powerful proof of the serious barriers persons with
disabilities face, the impact of provincial cuts and downloading, and the
harm this inflicts on many, many Ontarians," said David Lepofsky, chair of
the province-wide, non-partisan ODA Committee. "It shows that provincial
standards need to be legislated to get rid of these barriers, and that
American legislation along these lines has spawned real and substantial
It is clear from this Discussion Paper that existing laws, like the Ontario
Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights, have not solved this problem.
"We have again called on Premier Harris to finally agree to meet with us,
and for his government to bring together the major stakeholders so that a
strong, effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act can be developed and
implemented," said Lepofsky. "Mr. Harris has refused to meet with us ever
since he took office, even though he promised in the 1995 campaign to
work together with us to develop this legislation. Time is running out.
There are only 275 days until the deadline for passage of a strong and
effective ODA, which the Legislature unanimously established by a resolution
in November 1999."
In 1998, the Harris government introduced a 3-page bill. Widely condemned,
it died on the order paper after only 17 days. It required removal of no
barriers. A leaked draft cabinet document last fall mapped out plans to
re-introduce similarly-toothless legislation by December 2000. Concerted
grassroots ODA Committee action led the government to back off that
Now a new Citizenship Minister, Cam Jackson, has responsibility for this
issue. Public opinion polls conducted by the government in 2000 and by the
ODA Committee in 1997 show strong public support for a mandatory, effective
Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
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