DAWN Ontario: DisAbled Women's Network Ontario

Practical Tips on How to Prepare an Oral or Written Submission
to the Legislature's Standing Committee on Justice Policy
Regarding the Controversial Bill 107

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

July 31, 2006

 

1. INTRODUCTION

Here are helpful tips for preparing your written and/or oral presentation on Bill 107 to the Legislature's Standing Committee on Justice Policy. Everyone's contribution to these hearings makes a real difference. We hope that these tips will be useful for presenters from the disability community and from any other individual or group interested in advancing the protection of human rights in Ontario.

We explain


2. HOW PUBLIC HEARINGS WORK

The Legislature has assigned the Standing Committee on Justice Policy the job of studying and holding public hearings on Bill 107, the controversial bill that would weaken the Human Rights Commission. The Standing Committee will hold public hearings in London, Thunder Bay and Ottawa between August 8 and 10, 2006. It will also hold public hearings in Toronto some time after September 25, 2006. Toronto dates have not yet been announced. It is expected that the Standing Committee will post the list of the presenters at the hearings on its website as these are finalized by the Standing Committee.

It is too late to sign up for the hearings outside Toronto. However, it is not too late to sign up for the Toronto hearings. See the contact information for signing up below, or visit:

http://dawn.thot.net/bill_107_june24-06.html

The hearings are open to the public. You can attend them even if you don't plan to make an oral presentation. It's important for as many people as possible to attend the hearings, even if they don't make a presentation. This is to show that the public is interested in and concerned about the bill.

The Standing Committee will include MPPs from all three political parties. The governing Liberals have a majority of the seats on the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee will be chaired by a Liberal MPP. Even though certain MPPs are assigned to this Standing Committee, other MPPs may substitute for the regular members from time to time. For example, when the Standing Committee goes to a particular city, there may be MPPs from that city who substitute in at the hearings.

The opposition NDP and Conservative parties are on record as being very concerned about Bill 107 as weakening human rights protection in Ontario. Their MPPs can be expected at the hearings to raise these concerns. The Liberal Party is on record as supporting this bill. However, It is still possible to persuade Liberal MPPs as a group, or one at a time, that this bill has serious problems. That persuasion can occur during the formal hearings. It can also occur if you speak to MPPs informally, either during breaks or in the hallway.

At the hearings you may be given 20 or 30 minutes to present. You should check with the Standing Committee directly to find out whether you have been chosen to present, and how much time you are allocated. See the contact information below.

During your presentation, you can use all your allotted time to deliver your presentation, or you can leave some of your time for the MPPs to ask you questions. If time is left for questions, the MPPs divide this among the three parties.

Some presenters welcome MPPs' questions because it gives a chance for the presenter to clear up any areas of confusion. Others prefer to use their whole time to make their presentation, and not to leave any time for questions. This is because the MPPs' questions may be more in the nature of long speeches that end with a short question.

After the hearings are finished, at some future date in the fall, the Standing Committee will conduct Clause-by-Clause debate of the bill. This is where the Committee decides what amendments to make to the bill. Any of the three parties can propose amendments. Because the liberals have a majority of the seat son the Committee, they control which amendments are passed.

3. TIPS FOR BOTH ORAL AND WRITTEN PRESENTATIONS

Whether you are making an oral or written submission or both, consider these tips.

  • The Legislature's public hearings are the way for members of the public like you to take part in the democratic process of making new laws. This is not an intimidating formal process. It's a relatively relaxed public meeting that allows Ontarians to share their ideas with their elected politicians. Don't be nervous. Enjoy it. You can make a real impact!

  • Don't assume that this bill is a "done deal." After the public hearings, the Government can decide to make substantial changes to the bill.

Moreover, after the bill finishes up in Standing Committee, the Government can decide to bring the bill back before the legislature for a debate and vote on third Reading. That is the final vote needed for it to pass into law. If there is enough opposition to a bill at public hearings, the Government may instead decide not to bring the bill back before the Legislature for Third Reading. It may instead decide to go back to the drawing board. By doing this the Government could come up with a more appropriate way to improve Ontario's human rights system than the flawed Bill 107.

You should decide what you ultimately want to achieve by your presentation before you get wrapped up in the details.

  • It's helpful to divide both your written and oral presentation into these parts:

    (a) First, identify who you are. If you are an individual, explain why this topic concerns you. If you speak for an organization, explain what the organization does and what expertise it has in the area of human rights.

    b) Give the Standing Committee your "bottom line" in a summary form. If you think it would be better for the Government to start from scratch to draw up a new bill, tell them right up front. If you think it needs major amendments, say that.

    (c) Identify what's wrong with Bill 107.

  • (d) Propose what kinds of changes you would like made to the bill. Think at this point not in terms of the bill's legal language, but what results you would like the amendments to achieve in the real world. For example, you might say that the bill should be amended to preserve the right of every human rights complainant to have the Human Rights Commission investigate their case. Don't be afraid to suggest amendments. The Attorney General has already indicated the bill needs to be amended.

    e) If there is specific wording in the bill you would like to see changed, feel free to point this out. However, don't be worried if you don't want to get into that kind of detail.

  • If you agree with the general positions put forward in the AODA Alliance's draft submission on Bill 107, a convenient short-cut for you is to advise the Standing Committee in your oral and/or written presentation that you endorse that draft submission. You can find it at:

    http://dawn.thot.net/bill_107_brief.html

    or

  • http://www.aodaalliance.org/reform/standing-committee-submission.asp

It is hoped that the AODA Alliance will have its finalized brief prepared and made public by the end of August. In the meantime, feel free to use the AODA Alliance's draft submission if you wish.

  • Limit your suggestions to things which fall within the scope of this bill. You may have other beefs with the Government that don't pertain to this bill. However the Standing Committee can't deal with these here.

  • Don't assume that the MPPs on the Standing Committee have a detailed background in human rights issues. These hearings may be the first time some of them are being introduced to these issues.

  • If you're from a smaller community or rural area, be sure to point out the distinctive issues that discrimination victims face in those areas as contrasted with those who live in the big city.


4. Additional tips for oral presentations:

  • You only get a short period of time to present. It will go by very quickly. You should identify in your own mind the 3 or 4 major points about Bill 107 you want to drive home. That is all you'll be able to accomplish in the short time you have.

  • Get right to the point. Make your introduction short and to the point. Otherwise you will find that you have spent half of your allotted time just explaining who you are, introducing your presenters and stating what your organization does etc.

  • Hit the important themes in your oral presentation. You can give more background and detail in your written submission.

  • Use your own experiences to illustrate your concerns. e.g. Have you been a victim of a human rights violation? What has your experience with the system been? Will this bill address your concerns with the current system? Will this bill help the people your organization represents? Could you afford to hire a lawyer if you had to take your own case to the Tribunal? Would you feel comfortable investigating your own complaint?

  • Use your presentation to bring to life the real world experience of people who face human rights discrimination. Remember that the MPPs will be hearing many presentations, one after the next, for long hearing days. To retain their attention, paint a vivid, human picture for them of why this bill can't go ahead in its current form.

  • Don't spend any time stressing things you know the Standing Committee already knows. You don't need to convince the Standing Committee that discrimination is a bad thing. They all agree with this. You also don't need to spend time explaining how backlogged the system now is. All three parties know this, and have spoken out about the need to speed up the system. The issue the Standing Committee is dealing with is whether Bill 107 will make things better or worse. That is the topic that is best for you to address.

  • If you're presenting later in the hearings, after the MPPs have heard several presentations, you might wish to quickly state that you agree with certain points that others have repeatedly made, list them quickly, and then address key points you want to add.

  • It is strongly recommended that you get to the hearings as early as possible on the day you are presenting. Watch the presentations that come before you. See what others have said so you don't eat up your time repeating them. Listen carefully to questions MPPs have been asking other presenters.

  • Remember, your audience at these hearings is elected MPPs. Remind them of how important this issue is to voters like you. Let them know it will be an election issue in the upcoming 2007 provincial election.

  • To prepare your oral presentation in advance, try to summarize to a family member or friend in 1 minute what you are asking the Standing Committee to do to fix the bill. If you don't like how it sounded, try again!

  • Decide how much of your allotted time you want to spend making your presentation, and how much time if any you want to leave at the end for MPPs to question you. (See above).

  • If an MPP asks you a question for which you don't know the answer, or aren't sure, remember that this is not a test! You should feel free to say that you don't know. MPPs know many presenters aren't fully versed with all the technical details of the bill they are considering. You can also offer to get back to the Standing Committee with an answer afterwards e.g. by later sending in a written note to the Standing Committee using the address below.

  • Bring others to accompany you during the presentation. If you're speaking for an organization, bring as many staff, board members and volunteers as you can. The show of support by others in the room can be as important as the presentation itself. Remember - these are politicians you're speaking to…numbers mean votes. They want to keep the voters happy!

  • Let your local media know in advance of your upcoming presentation, and about the hearings generally. Don't assume the media knows about these hearings and plans to cover them. Urge them to attend. Even if the media doesn't attend, phone them beforehand to tell them what you will say or call them afterwards to explain what you did say in your presentation. Urge them to report your story.


5. TIP FOR ORGANIZATIONS MAKING AN ORAL PRESENTATION

  • You might want to bring along a written summary of what your organization does, who all the presenters are in your delegation, and their job titles or backgrounds. Bring at least 20 copies with you to hand out. By giving out this printed information to the Standing Committee at the start of your presentation, you can let the MPPs quickly read it over to themselves, rather than taking up precious time giving long introductions.


6. ADDITIONAL TIP FOR INDIVIDUALS MAKING ORAL PRESENTATIONS

  • If you're doing a presentation as an individual, don't feel that your message will have less force than presentations made by organizations. Some of the most powerful and memorable presentations are made by individuals speaking for themselves. If you're speaking as an individual, remind the MPPs that you are symbolic of many thousands and thousands of other voters in their ridings.


7. ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR YOUR WRITTEN SUBMISSION

Even though it's too late to get on the list to make an oral presentation in London, Thunder Bay or Ottawa, if you haven't signed up already, you can still send in a written submission if you are from one of these cities or from anywhere else in Ontario. Written submissions will be accepted through until the end of Committee hearings i.e. until at least the end of September. You can send in a hard copy or email in an electronic copy, using the contact information below.

  • We encourage you to send in a written submission to the Standing Committee, even if it's just a 1-page short note. For example, you might wish to just let the Standing Committee know in writing if you have concerns about Bill 107.

  • There are no formal rules on what your written submission needs to include or on how it is to be structured.

  • You can make your submission as short as you wish. Some suggest the shorter submissions are more likely to get thoroughly read.

  • Be sure to include your contact information in the brief in case the Standing Committee wants to follow up with you or ask further questions.

8. NEED FOR ACCOMMODATION:

If you have a disability that requires you to have more time than the time allotted to you, or another form of accommodation, let the Standing Committee know in advance.


CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THE STANDING COMMITTEE

Standing Committee on Justice Policy
c/o Anne Stokes, Clerk
Room 1405, Whitney Block
Queen's Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A2
Email: anne_stokes@ontla.ola.org

 

 


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