Alliance Calls on Attorney General to Ensure Forthcoming
May 16, 2006
AODA Alliance Update dd May 15, 2006
The AODA Alliance has written Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant to address two matters (See letter below):
On May 8, 2006, the Attorney General incorrectly stated in the Legislature: "I know that at least one member of the Ontarians with disabilities committee has argued that we ought to put off debate over human rights reforms until 2025. That's the date on which the accessibility legislation is to be implemented in its entirety."
Neither the AODA Alliance (whom the Attorney General appears to have confused with its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee), nor anyone speaking for it, has asked the Government to hold off debating reforms to the Human Rights Commission for twenty years. To the contrary, we have agreed that reform is needed and called for prompt, time-limited public consultations. However we have opposed the specific weakening of the Human Rights Commission that the Government announced on February 20, 2006 and enshrined in Bill 107.
We are especially
concerned about the Attorney General's inaccurate public statement, because
the Toronto Star has now picked it up, and presented it as fact. Read
the column by Ian Urquhart in the May 13, 2006 Toronto Star.
You might wish to note that Mr. Urquhart is incorrect when he says in his article that " the bill states everyone is entitled to publicly funded legal representation." The bill doesn't say this. It merely says that the Attorney General "may" fund organizations to provide legal support to human rights complainants or others involved in legal proceedings (such as those accused of discrimination). It doesn't require the Government to do this. It would let the Government discontinue any such funding without needing the Legislature's approval.
Section 46.1 of Bill 107 merely says:
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May 15, 2006
To: The Hon. Michael
Bryant, Attorney General of Ontario
Re: Bill 107 Proposed New Law to Weaken Ontario Human Rights Commission
We wish to raise two matters with you regarding Bill 107, your proposed law to weaken the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
First, we request your Government's clarification of the specifics concerning the forthcoming province-wide public hearings on Bill 107 to which you committed in the Legislature. We seek your government's commitment that:
* these hearings wont' be started before the end of June 2006. As mentioned in our May 12, 2006 letter, interested individuals and organizations require sufficient time to analyze the details of your complex bill, to formulate responses, to get their board's approvals where needed, and to prepare detailed submissions for the Legislature's Standing Committee.
* these province-wide public hearings, including the public notices and advertisements soliciting deponents to take part in them, will be fully barrier-free and accessible to all Ontarians including persons with disabilities.
* there will be sufficient days allocated to the hearings to ensure that all who wish to make a public presentation will be given time to do so.
* those presenting at the hearings will be allowed at least 30 minutes to make their presentation, given Bill 107's importance and complexity. The brief 15 minute allocation often given to presenters at Standing Committee proceedings will be insufficient for the many who have sought an opportunity for input into this bill. They are now told by your Government that these public hearings are to be the avenue for that input.
* After the public hearings are completed, your Government won't impose "closure" or time allocation on the Standing Committee's clause-by-clause debates on amendments to Bill 107 that are moved before the Standing Committee. This is necessary to ensure that all proposed amendments can be considered and debated within the Standing Committee.
* your Government will permit the Standing Committee to consider any amendments to Bill 107, moved before the Standing Committee, that deal with reform of the human rights system, without their being ruled out of order.
We very much appreciate that while in opposition, your party was highly critical of the previous Government if it didn't follow such steps when it brought forward Bill 125, the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. We hope that now that your party is the Government, you will be agreeable to these steps, most of which were honoured during your Government's proceedings on Bill 118, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.
Second, we respectfully request that you publicly correct an inaccurate statement you made about us in the Ontario Legislature on Monday, May 8, 2006, during the first day of Second Reading debate on your bill. according to Hansard, the Legislature's official transcript, you made a statement that suggests that at least one of our coalition's members opposed any discussion of reform to human rights until 2025. You stated:
"I know that at least one member of the Ontarians with disabilities committee has argued that we ought to put off debate over human rights reforms until 2025. That's the date on which the accessibility legislation is to be implemented in its entirety."
This statement is not accurate. It appears that your statement has been picked up by the media. In the Saturday, May 13, 2006 Toronto Star, Ian Urquhart wrote, presumably based on your statement in the Legislature:
"How much more consultation is needed? In answer to that question, one group speaking for the disabled has suggested putting off changes to the human rights commission for another 20 years."
As you know, we have been deeply concerned about your Government's rejection of our call to undertake a proper time-limited , open consultation this spring on human rights reform before introducing a bill into the Legislature. Indeed, we even went to the length earlier this spring of developing and widely circulating a Discussion Paper on options for reforming the human rights process, so that such a consultation could immediately get underway. In light of this, it is especially troubling that you would publicly suggest that we in any way have tried to put off any such discussions for another 20 years.
We look forward to hearing from you on these issues and on those raised in our May 12, 2006 letter to you.
Catherine Dunphy, Chair, AODA Alliance
cc: Via facsimile
The Hon. Premier Dalton McGuinty (416) 325-3745
Star Saturday, May 13, 2006