IS THE ODA COMMITTEE?
ODA Committee is a province-wide, grassroots, non-partisan coalition
of many, many individuals and over 100 community organizations.
They have united to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for its 1.5 million
people with disAbilities through the enactment of a strong, mandatory
Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Its members include those with
all kinds of visible and invisible disabilities and those with no
disabilities. They come from all corners of Ontario, from all points
on the political spectrum and from all walks of life. They are organized
in fully 21 regions of Ontario and are active across the province.
DOES ONTARIO NEED A STRONG, EFFECTIVE AND MANDATORY ODA?
1.5 million Ontarians with disAbilities face many physical, technological,
informational, communication and other barriers of different kinds.
These impede them from fully participating in all aspects of Ontario
life, such as employment and the enjoyment of goods, services and
facilities. Supplementing old barriers that have been here for a
long time are new barriers that are now being created, and that
will be created in the future if not prevented.
efforts, such as public education and information campaigns, have
not succeeded in removing these barriers and in preventing new ones.
Neither have existing patchwork laws, such as the Ontario Human
Rights Code, the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Building Code.
Ontario needs a strong and effective ODA to achieve a barrier-free
province in an effective, sensible way.
WOULD BENEFIT FROM A STRONG, MANDATORY ODA?
retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Peter Cory wrote in the
November 7, 2000 Toronto Star: "A strong, effective Disabilities
Act would benefit us all. It would ensure that those with a disability
would finally be included in the rich and rewarding life of other
residents of Ontario. Those who now have no disability may well
incur a disability as they get older, and they too would be spared
will profit from both the spending power of consumers with disAbilities
and talented employees with disAbilities who have so much to offer.
The taxpayer will benefit from the increased economic activity and
from the removal of barriers that prevent more persons with disAbilities
from moving from social assistance to gainful employment."
BENEFITS FROM THE STATUS QUO?
one benefits from the status quo. People with disAbilities are forced
to suffer the substantial and unfair burdens imposed on them by
these barriers. Business loses out on the opportunity to benefit
from employing more persons with disAbilities, and from selling
more goods and services to persons with disAbilities. The taxpayer
must shoulder the cost of more persons with disAbilities on social
assistance, who would prefer to be gainfully employed, and thus
to be paying taxes into the public purse.
THE PUBLIC SUPPORT A STRONG, MANDATORY ODA?
There is overwhelming proof that the public would support a strong,
mandatory ODA, including the following:
the Ontario Government's June 2000 poll shows strong public support
for an ODA which is mandatory, not voluntary, and that applies to
both the private and public sectors.
the ODA Committee's 1997 poll similarly shows strong public support
for legislation addressing barriers facing persons with disAbilities.
the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed 3 resolutions respectively
for the ODA to be passed in the Harris Government's first term,
for it to incorporate the ODA Committee's 11 principles to make
it meaningful, and requiring a strong and effective ODA to be enacted
into law by November 23, 2001.
Over 20 municipal and local councils have passed resolutions similarly
calling for the ODA to be enacted, in response to grassroots efforts
across Ontario by ODA supporters.
No major Ontario party has campaigned against the enactment of the
ODA in either the 1995 or 1999 elections.
COMMITMENTS HAS THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT MADE SINCE 1995 REGARDING
Ontario Government has made the following commitments regarding
the ODA, as acknowledged in public and internal Government documents:
* May 24, 1995: By Mike Harris' letter to the ODA Committee, an
election promise to enact the ODA in the Harris Government's first
term, to allocate new funds to accommodate persons with disAbilities,
and for Premier Harris to work together with the ODA Committee to
develop the ODA.
May 16, 1996: by supporting a unanimous Legislature resolution,
to keep the promises to enact the ODA in its first term and to work
together with the ODA Committee to develop it.
Oct. 29, 1998: By supporting a unanimous Legislature resolution,
to enact the ODA which complies with 11 principles to make it strong
1999 election: to undertake a new consultation with the public on
the ODA, and then to bring forward a new bill which is stronger
than Bill 83, a bill that had died on the order paper after first
reading in late 1999.
Sept. 11, 1999: Citizenship Minister Helen Johns tells London Free
Press that the ODA will be a "huge priority" for her.
Oct. 21, 1999: Throne Speech commitment to bring forward an action
plan on the ODA in that session of the Ontario Legislature.
November 23, 1999: By supporting a unanimous Legislature resolution,
to enact a strong and effective ODA into law by November 23, 2001.
March 25, 2000: Citizenship Minister Helen Johns commits on London
TV that the ODA action plan will be brought forward by June 2000.
STEPS HAS THE GOVERNMENT TAKEN TO FULFIL THESE COMMITMENTS?
No ODA was enacted in the Harris Government's first term or in the
first 1 and ½ years of its second term. No "action plan"
for the ODA has been brought forward since it was promised in the
Throne Speech 16 months ago.
July to September 1999: Citizenship Minister Bassett and her Parliamentary
Assistant Derwyn Shea held closed, invitation-only consultations
on what to include in the ODA based on the Government's July 13,
1998 ODA Discussion Paper. That Discussion Paper recognized the
problem of barriers, but limited the options for inclusion in the
ODA to redress them.
* Nov. 23, 1998: Citizenship Minister Isabel Bassett introduced
Bill 83 for first reading. Only three pages long, it did not require
any barriers to be removed. This bill died on the order paper after
first reading 17 days later. The Government acknowledged in its
April 1999 Throne Speech that this bill was insufficient.
Late 1999 to February 2001: Citizenship Minister Helen Johns stated
she is holding ongoing consultations on the ODA. Documents released
in mid-2000 revealed little record of this.
Late August 2000: According to a leaked draft Cabinet submission,
the Government planned to introduce a new bill in October-December
2000 significantly resembling Bill 83, as well as some limited non-legislative
measures. A Government communication strategy was proposed to respond
to the anticipated criticism of the Government for this approach.
RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE TO YOU TO HELP WITH YOUR WORK ON THIS ISSUE?
assist you in becoming more familiar with this issue, you have the
benefit of the Citizenship Ministry staff who have had this issue
for several years. In addition, we are pleased to offer you our
help. You may especially find the following resources helpful:
The ODA Committee's comprehensive April 1998 Brief to the Legislature
on the ODA. It includes among other things, a detailed blueprint
for the contents of the ODA which are faithful to the 11 principles
which the Ontario Legislature unanimously endorsed by
resolution on October 29, 1998. It also includes a 50-page list
of barriers facing persons with all kinds of different disabilities
in Ontario in a wide range of activities. This list is not intended
to be exhaustive. It reflects extensive feedback we received from
people right across Ontario.
The ODA Committee's website at www.odacommittee.net. This is a comprehensive
resource on this issue. It includes, among other things, all correspondence
between the ODA Committee and the Government among others on this
issue, Hansard transcripts of statements about the ODA in the Legislature,
a list of our many organizational members, all the major public
documents concerning the ODA issue, and much, much more.
The detailed report prepared by the Liberal Party's former disability
critic, MPP Steve Peters, which was made public on November 23,
2000. That is an excellent report which resulted from a thorough
and accessible series of public forums in some 15 communities across
Ontario held last spring. Unfortunately, neither Premier Harris
nor then Citizenship Minister Helen Johns accepted any invitations
to attend these forums.
The columns in the Toronto Star (available on the website) expressing
support for a strong, effective ODA by the late Chief Justice of
Canada Brian Dickson published on October 7, 1998 and by retired
Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory, referred to above.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission's February 19, 2001 Discussion
Paper on Accessible Public Transit for People with Disabilities:
This documents the need for provincial legislation to set standards
to achieve barrier-free public transit. It provides a good illustration
in this one sector of the need for a strong, mandatory ODA.
MAJOR CHALLENGES DOES THE NEW MINISTER OF CITIZENSHIP, CAM JACKSON,
FACE IN UNDERTAKING HIS RESPONSIBILITIES REGARDING THE ODA?
will face several significant challenges in discharging this new
area of responsibility.
Among these are the following:
There are only 275 days left until the November 23, 2001 deadline,
unanimously set by the legislature, for passing the ODA into law.
His Government has not yet held a consultation on the ODA which
is open, public and accessible to all whose insights would help
them. The results of the two limited, closed, invitation-only consultations
held by their predecessors were never summarized and properly analyzed
in a report, as far as we have been able to ascertain. Former Minister
Helen Johns told us that feedback she received is largely in her
Premier Harris gave none of Minister Jacksons's three predecessor
ministers a mandate, authority or scope to undertake meaningful
accessible discussions about the contents of the ODA, and to come
forward with a bill which is strong and effective.