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Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA



December 16, 2001





The Legislature passed Bill 125, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, on
December 13, 2001. The final Bill contained amendments approved by the
Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, during its hearings in
December. It is now time for us to reflect on where we have gone, and what
lies ahead for us on the road to a barrier-free Ontario for 1.6 million
Ontarians with disabilities. This report updates you on where we stand and
seeks your ideas for the next steps in our work that begins next month as we
tenaciously forge ahead.


On Thursday evening, December 13, 2001 around 10:00 o'clock, the Ontario
Government used its majority in the Legislature to pass Bill 125 into law. The
bill passed after the Third Reading debate which the Conservative Government
limited to one hour. The Liberal and NDP caucuses decided to vote against the
legislation, to show their support for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act that
would be truly strong and effective, that would require barriers to be removed
and prevented in all sectors of society, and that would have effective
enforcement. Both of those opposition parties have committed to pass such
legislation, if they become the government after the next election. Both
parties put forward detailed packages of amendments to Bill 125 at the Standing
Committee, based on the recommendations put forward by the ODA Committee and
supported by many groups and individuals making presentations to the Committee.
Most of these amendments were not adopted by the Standing Committee, on which
the Government had a majority.

Bill 125 was the last Bill to pass the Legislature with Mike Harris as Premier.
The legislature adjourned until next Spring, and will meet again after a new
leader of the Conservative party is selected to become Premier.

The Bill received Royal Assent on December 14, 2001. In order for it to come
into effect, it must be proclaimed. We do not know when that will happen.


Bill 125 does not fulfil 10 of the 11 principles put forward by the ODA
committee as essential for truly strong and effective legislation that will
remove and prevent barriers in all aspects of society. We remain committed to
reaching that goal. Our commitment to this goal will not go away.

The next month gives us a good opportunity to sit back, look at what we have
achieved, and to reflect on how to continue to work towards our goal. We can
begin planning activities for next year that will support this goal. They can

1. Urging the government to proclaim Bill 125 immediately, and to introduce
the regulations necessary to implement it within the next six months. The
regulations are needed to spell out, in greater detail, the requirements for
the public sector organizations' accessibility plans as well as to set
standards, fix time lines, and create effective enforcement both for the public
and private sectors to remove and prevent barriers as soon as possible.

2. Making sure that the provincial Accessibility Advisory Council and local
municipal advisory committees have strong memberships of people who support
achievement of a barrier-free Ontario, and making sure that the provincial
Council and municipal disability committees are allowed to consult widely and
receive sufficient administrative support to fulfil their mandates.

3. Monitoring new legislation, policies and programmes, to see if they are
barrier free.

4. Monitoring the impact of this bill and the actions of the Ontario
Government to fulfil its commitments regarding this bill, to identify what
impact the bill has on the daily lives of Ontarians with disabilities, and
where it needs improvement.

5. Ensuring that the public understands and supports the need for a
barrier-free Ontario in all sectors, and letting the public know what progress
is being made.

We encourage you to send in your ideas on strategies to advance these goals,
and any suggestions you have on additional goals. In the New Year, after we
have heard back from you, we will send out a package of strategies and
suggestions. Send your ideas to us at: oda@odacommittee.net

or mail them to our mailing address.


We have all worked hard on this road to a barrier-free Ontario and have some
significant achievements. As for legislation, we now have an Ontarians with
Disabilities Act that:

While Bill 125 falls significantly short of the goals of the ODA Committee, we
have made some progress since Bill 83 was introduced in 1998 and was quickly
withdrawn, after our widespread criticism.

We also have a stated Government commitment to achieve a barrier-free Ontario
for persons with disabilities and a number of Government commitments regarding
this legislation against which we can monitor future actions, and where needed,
hold the Government accountable.

When we look back, it is clear that we have accomplished a lot in the seven
years since that fateful day when about twenty of us found ourselves in a room
together at Queen's Park on November 29, 1994, and established the ODA
Committee. Together we have built Ontario's biggest, broadest, most inclusive
and most united disability rights coalition in the history of this province.

We have brought together so many individuals and over 100 community
organizations. We have successfully organized in fully 23 regions of Ontario.
We have maintained an extraordinarily successful and award-winning website,
thanks to the tremendous and tireless efforts of our website manager,
Barbara Anello.

We have been, and remain in the forefront of the movement for a barrier-free
Ontario for persons with disabilities.

We have put the issue of barriers facing persons with disabilities squarely on
Ontario's political map, where it will remain. Together we have found an
effective way to promote our collective goal of a barrier-free Ontario. The
ODA Committee does its best to provide leadership, strategies, information,
coordination and help. At the same time, the ODA Committee encourages and
supports all organizations and individuals to raise their own voices, to make
their own proposals, and to help the cause in any way they feel best. We work
both on our own and together in harmony.

We have ensured that this province-wide cause is truly grass-roots, and not a
Toronto-dominated activity. Just a few examples of local activities around the
province that have helped so much include our Guelph Region, which produced a
fabulous ODA video that has informed so many; our London Region, which swiftly
organized a successful one-day shadow public hearing on the ODA (because the
Government refused to hold public hearings in that deserving city); our
Hamilton, York Region, Parry Sound/Muskoka and Toronto regions, which so
effectively raised the ODA issue during provincial by- elections over the past
two years; our Sault Ste. Marie region, that arranged for an entourage to drive
four hours to participate in the Standing Committee's public hearings in
Sudbury; our Ottawa Region, which linked the need for the ODA to its horrible
para-transit strike last spring; and of course, all our regions which have held
successful public forums on the ODA over the years, and which so effectively
reached out to their local MPPs and media. Each region has contributed
incredibly to our efforts.

We have crafted our famous 11 principles for the ODA, reflecting the shared
views of our membership. We have convinced the Ontario Legislature and so many
municipal councils to endorse these principles. Our 11 principles have become
the yardstick by which any ODA bill has been or will be measured. We developed
our detailed 1998 blueprint for the ODA, after we carried out a huge
province-wide consultation process over three years. We have educated the
public, including the media, on the need for a strong and effective ODA, as
well as so many individual MPPs; and had three resolutions passed unanimously,
supporting the need for the ODA.

We succeeded in advocating for public hearings on Bill 125, although those
hearings were unfairly plagued by barriers to full participation by persons
with disabilities. With far too little time to do it, we came forward this
fall with a comprehensive, detailed, reasonable and specific package of
proposed amendments to Bill 125, as did many other individuals and


I am more optimistic then ever that we will achieve our goal. It has been, and
continues to be an honour and a privilege to serve as the chair of this
coalition, and to get the chance to work together with so many wonderful and
dedicated people. We all thank the many, many people who have worked so hard
on this issue right across Ontario.

Whatever you may think of Bill 125, let us commit ourselves to working together
next year, after a well-deserved rest, to build on our successes to date.

May you all have a barrier-free holiday season and a tenacious New Year!


Follow this link to read
2000 Year End Report
1999 Year End Report


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