of Legislature Debates over McGuinty's
Below we set out the text of the debates in the Ontario legislature surrounding the McGuinty Government's shutting down further public hearings on the widely-criticized Bill 107. Bill 107 would weaken the Human Rights Commission and take away key rights that we fought for and won 25 years ago, rights regarding public investigation and public prosecution of discrimination cases.
This is a lot of material. (some 62 pages) We provide it all to ensure everyone can see what is said on this important topic on the floor of the Legislature. You will see:
There are a good number of other mentions of this topic scattered in debates over other topics over this week. We have not included those here.
We again express our deep appreciation to the NDP and Conservative Party for continuing to press this issue.
As you read these debates, you will see that the Conservative leader John Tory repeatedly offered that if the Liberals restore the cancelled public hearings, the Conservatives will support a swift vote on the bill when the legislature resumes in March. The Liberals never give a reason for turning this offer down. The Liberals claim that this matter has been debated or considered for over 200 days. However, there have not been 200 days of debate in the Legislature or the Standing Committee on this bill. Throughout the vast majority of those 200 days, we had all been relying on the McGuinty Liberals' commitments regarding the public hearings, and preparing for them. By this closure motion, the McGuinty Government breaches those commitments.
The Liberals say they have heard enough at the hearings. Yet the clear message from a majority of the presenters to date is that the bill is seriously flawed.
Here is a list of all the Liberal MPPs who voted on November 21, 2006 for the McGuinty muzzle motion. You may wish to call these MPPs to let them know how you feel about the muzzle motion, and to urge them to get the Government to reverse itself and re-open the promised public hearings.
OF BILL 107
OF BILL 107
OF BILL 107
The Speaker: Thank you. Final supplementary.
Mr. Tory: I come back
to my question. It wasn't me who stood in this House and said that they
would take however long it takes to listen to the people. It wasn't me
who wrote the letter to Mrs. Parsons saying that there would be hearings
held in the winter on dates and in locations to be determined. In fact,
if you check the motion brought forward by the government House leader,
it says that the committee is authorized to meet from 9:30 to 12:30 and
after routine proceedings on November 29 to consider and complete clause-by-clause
consideration of the bill, and it goes on to talk about other things after
that. What happened? Why don't you just stand up and admit, then, that
you wrote a letter and misled this woman with respect to the fact --
OF BILL 107
OF BILL 107
Then it gets even
more interesting because the next day the committee meets, and it has
a report from the subcommittee recommending more hearings be held, including
hearings after Christmas, to make sure we heard from all those who wanted
to be heard.
Lo and behold -- that's on November 15 -- five days later, on November 20, the guillotine comes out, so obviously what happened here is that the Liberal members knew what they wanted and they did vote to have the hearings go ahead. The Premier's office and the Attorney General's office ordered that this debate be shut down because it was inconvenient to them to actually think they might listen to some people from across the province. I wonder what it is they're afraid of hearing. We are trying -- I think we should be trying, in any event -- to develop a consensus as broad as we possibly can when it comes to the Ontario Human Rights Code and what the minister I think has correctly described as "fundamental reform."
By the way, the minister
got up and asserted -- or I guess it was the Premier who did today --
that we, the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party,
are opposed to reforming the Human Rights Code. No one has ever said that,
but we do think that, if you're reforming as fundamental a foundation
piece of legislation as this, you take the time to do it right, you hear
the people who want to be heard, especially when we have so much trouble
engaging people in legislation and things we do here, and especially when
a lot of people do have some concerns about the bill. So we should get
it right, as opposed to getting it done quickly.
The fact of the matter is that passing it now versus passing it, which we offered to do, first thing up in the spring, after the people have been heard today, is not going to make a material difference in terms of eliminating the old backlog or getting started on the new one, where the minister himself has been extraordinarily vague about the degree of legal advice people are going to be able to get: how much of it, how many lawyers, where they are going to be. Heaven knows, we won't even be able to hire the people between now and the time when we could have that vote taken in March, after everyone had been heard and with a much greater chance that we will have developed a consensus by that time that will allow for this legislation to be passed in the manner that it should be passed, and so we have the guillotine.
I want to just share
a couple of quotes. We have pages and pages of these, and it's almost
nauseating to read them. But we have the government House leader, and
he said, "Each of the time allocation motions which close off or
choke off debate in this House seems to be more drastic as it comes forward
... more sinister as it relates to the privileges of members of this House
and as it relates to healthy, democratic debate for the people of this
province." That was December 16, 1977.
Then on the same day
he says, "The opposition role is to help to slow the government down,
and I think ultimately better legislation for all the people of this province
emerges when the government is forced to take a little longer to pass
that legislation." Well, they're singing quite a different tune today
about how that delay is going to be the worst thing on earth and that
the world is going to come to an end if we don't jam and ram this through
on a couple of hours' notice.
Then we have again
Mr. Bradley, the member for St. Catharines, on December 10, 2002: "I
find it most unfortunate as well that this bill will be rammed through
with what we call a time allocation motion or what is known as closing
off debate. If nobody cares about this, governments will continue to do
it. No matter what those governments are, they will continue to do it.
It's not healthy for the democratic system. It relegates individual members
of the Legislature to the status of robots, and that's most unfortunate."
What really pains
me is that the people who are most being relegated to being robots are
the people on the Liberal side of the House. I predict with certainty
that there won't be one who will have the guts to get up in this House
and say, "This is wrong," that we should be hearing from these
people who want to be heard, that this is a fundamental, foundation piece
of legislation that this Legislature is considering, that these people
have every bit as much right to be heard as the people who spoke in favour,
whom they did allow to be heard last week. They will do what they're told.
They will do what they're ordered to do.
They showed a rare
glimmer of independence in voting for the additional hearings, but then
the hammer came down on them and said, "How dare you vote with the
Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party for more hearings
and to actually have people be heard? We've got to shut her down -- shut
her down. We don't want to hear from those people. We know what's best.
We're the McGuinty Liberal government. We don't care that our word is
on the record saying that we'll listen to people, that we'll take however
long it takes. Our word means nothing. You Liberals here in caucus should
all know that. We're closing it down."
That, of course, brings
us finally to the honourable Dalton McGuinty, now Premier of Ontario,
who said on December 19, 2000, "For a government that promised to
be open, this closure action is the height of arrogance, the height of
exactly everything you campaigned against and you said you were for."
Well, guess what? I will stand here in this House today and say to the
Liberal Party, Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Attorney General: This
is the height of arrogance. It is the height of exactly everything you
campaigned against and said you were for. It is a total disgrace.
I want to just finish
with two last points, and I think it's worth reading into the record --
my friend from Niagara Centre, or maybe his leader, today read into the
record a couple of passages from Barbara Hall's letter. This is Barbara
Hall, my friend and my classmate from law school, whom I commended on
her appointment to the Ontario Human Rights Commission and who was appointed
by this government to that post. She said earlier this week that she was
generally content with some of the amendments, or whatever she said. But
she wrote a letter today which said this, and I want to just read a few
quotes from it:
has commented on the need for full consultation by the Ministry of the
Attorney General." I think she's referring in this next sentence
to what I talked about last spring. She says, "What should have been
a broad, consensus-building exercise in the best traditions of promoting
human rights was undertaken in a way which, instead, caused division within
the communities concerned." Doesn't that say a lot, that the person
charged with the responsibility of administering this act and protecting
human rights in this province, the chief human rights commissioner, says
that the way in which the government has handled this is causing divisions
within the communities concerned?
She goes on to say
"that the committee's hearings," it had been hoped, "would
lead to further progress with more common ground being found." That's
what we're trying to find too -- to listen to people to see if we can
find more common ground. She goes on to say, "In particular, there
is a need to fine-tune the Attorney General's proposed amendments and
to allay fears within the community by making clear the transition from
the old system to the new. By bringing an abrupt halt to the proceedings,"
Ms. Hall goes on to say, "that opportunity is lost; I fear the existing
divisions will become more polarized and bitter."
What a great legacy
this will be for you, Attorney General, I say through you, Mr. Speaker,
to have the existing divisions "become more polarized and bitter;"
to have the most vulnerable people in our society, whom you claim to be
protecting better through this piece of legislation, in fact saying that
you had no time to listen to them.
She concludes the
letter by saying this: "On behalf of the commission, I urge you to
withdraw the motion for closure. This should be a time to encourage discussion,
for consultation and for healing of divisions. All sides share the goal
of a stronger, more effective human rights system for Ontarians and care
passionately about human rights. It is crucial in this context to seek
common ground, for the sake of the people we both serve. Please"
-- the letter concludes -- "let their voices be heard."
Well, I can tell you,
speaking on behalf of our party, and I know it's true of the New Democrats
-- they will speak for themselves -- that we too "share the goal
of a stronger, more effective human rights system." We too reject
the fact that there should be a backlog that lasts for a year and a half,
or whatever period of time it is. Changes need to be made.
We are saying, though:
Listen to the people who want to be heard. We have people demonstrating
their interest and their engagement. Listen to the people who want to
be heard and give them a chance to come here and say what they have to
say. Maybe they might actually have a valuable contribution to make; in
fact, I am certain that they will.
I want to conclude
with a little bit more history from the very same day on which -- if I
could find it here -- the new human rights legislation was introduced.
In this case, it's a little while later; I guess it's actually the end
of the second reading debate, February 22, 1962.
It's very interesting.
History always teaches you a lot of lessons about a lot of things, but
in this case it shows how it could be done, because the bill I referred
to earlier and the reference I made to the speech introducing the Ontario
human rights code or whatever they called it -- the Ontario Code of Human
Rights -- then was followed by some very interesting speeches by Mr. Bryden,
who was a long-time member of the New Democratic Party. He taught me political
science at the University of Toronto -- a wonderful man, a totally engaging
man. He got up and spoke about the bill and said -- you know what he said
in his speech? It's interesting. He said, "In introducing the bill,
the minister said that he wasn't really changing any principles involved
in the bill, but I think he shortchanged himself." He went on to
indicate that there were some important principles in a positive sense
that had been brought forward by this new bill introduced by the then
Progressive Conservative government. This is the critic for the NDP saying
Mr. Robarts made the
concluding speech on the second reading debate. He was the Premier at
the time. He said, "If you go back to the beginning of this type
of legislation and the human rights legislation that has been introduced
here, I think you will find that over the years, there really has never
been a sharp difference of opinion on the underlying principles between
the various groups in the House."
He goes on later to
conclude, in talking about the very same thing, "I think the hon.
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Wintermeyer), the hon. member for Woodbine
(Mr. Bryden), and I all realize that this bill is an important step in
what we are trying to achieve. The codification of the act will promote
understanding and acceptance of the principles involved in them. What
we are really attempting to do is to place education and legal sanctions
together...." He then goes on to conclude his speech. What a sad
commentary it is that that can be the way they managed to do it in 1962.
In fact, I remember,
because I was here, and frankly there was more controversy within our
own party --
Mr. Tory: In 1982
-- when Bob Elgie introduced the changes to the Human Rights Code at that
time that took huge steps forward in a number of areas of discrimination
that became prohibited areas of discrimination, and probably there was
more dispute inside our own party -- I'm being honest about this -- about
the wisdom of those things, but ultimately they passed, obviously with
the support of the government and with the support of the other parties,
because that's how we recognized at that time that you do these things:
that you hear people and that you work together as parties to build a
consensus so that we can say to the people proudly, "We have moved
forward and reformed and improved the human rights legislation of this
province, and we've done it through consensus building and by listening
to people and getting better ideas as to how we could do things better."
On pieces of legislation
like this, the fact of the matter is, there is no division between the
three parties about what it is we're trying to achieve. But there are
different ideas sometimes as how best one can achieve it, and there are
certainly going to be some different opinions about that among members
of the public, while they don't differ on the principle involved.
So I say to the government,
I made an offer today -- and I will conclude on this last note -- and
for the life of me, I don't understand what's wrong with it. I don't understand
what's wrong with it, and the minister didn't answer today and the Premier
didn't answer. I said that when we come back in the spring, if they agree
to have the hearings that they had agreed to have and that their members
had voted to have, and that they placed ads in the paper to have and so
forth, that the minister gave his word that we would have -- the Attorney
General's word was given on this -- if they agree to have those hearings,
speaking for our party, we will agree to have this matter brought to a
vote. And everything that the government talked about being so important
today will happen on the first couple of days back, whatever works for
the government House leader.
But to me, to adopt
the approach that they're adopting now, to bring down the hammer, to jam
and ram this through, to completely give the back of the hand to all of
these groups of people and all these individuals who want to be heard,
I think is a disgrace. It is inconsistent with why we're here, it is inconsistent
with how this has been handled in the past in this Legislature when major
reforms have been brought about, and I think the government is letting
themselves down. I think they are letting the people of Ontario down.
I think they are letting down the people who care very much about the
human rights legislation. That is why I wanted to speak tonight against
this time allocation motion, because I think as a matter of process, as
a matter of principle, it is a grave mistake that we will pay for, as
said by no one less than, no one other than, the chief human rights commissioner.
It will create the kind of bitterness and division she talked about, and
we will rue the day that we did it this way.
Let's understand what
the government's obsession was with. It was with Bill 14, the paralegal
bill. Let's understand that the government had made a decision to displace
Bill 107. It had. Mr. Bryant made a choice. Opposition parties -- the
Conservatives and the New Democrats -- agreed, notwithstanding, again,
the tremendous concern around Bill 14 -- don't think this is the only
contentious bill that bears the fingerprints of one Michael Bryant --
around which there has been no resolution of the tremendous conflict.
I recall very, very clearly sitting in subcommittee as well as the House leader's office and talking about the fact that opposition parties worked as much as we had to after the Labour Day holiday to get committee hearings done on Bill 14, to accommodate the people who wanted to speak to Bill 14, and to make our best effort to get it reported back to the House by the time the House began sitting. I also remember some of the inevitable delays, not caused by opposition members but by the incompetence of government members, by government amendments that had to be read into the record that were pages and pages and pages long. The whining and the whinging that took place was incredible. In fact, opposition members, the Conservatives and myself as the New Democratic representative, assisted as best we could and as best the rules allowed to get Bill 14 back to the House for third reading. Were we happy with the result? No, we weren't. But do we understand the process?
Yes, we do.
Throughout the very
beginning of the summer, the latter part of the spring, there was, of
course, discussion around Bill 107. Opposition caucuses -- Ms. Elliott,
myself, Mr. Runciman -- told the government that there was undoubtedly
going to be a lengthy list of persons who wanted to be heard with respect
to Bill 107 and that we were prepared to begin hearing them when the committee
was freed from its responsibilities around Bill 14. The government bizarrely,
peculiarly, strangely, with no seeming rationale, insisted that at the
beginning of August, we travel to three cities: London, Thunder Bay and
Ottawa. I remember opposition members agreeing to sit extended hours in
those cities where there was tremendous demand. The opposition members
offered to sit extended hours to accommodate the folks in those cities.
It was Ottawa, as I recall, that had the lengthiest hearings, although
somebody could correct me.
I remember that it
was government members who were whining about the travel arrangements.
A plane had been chartered. There were actually government members who
got to Thunder Bay on the charter plane who wanted to hire commercial
flights to come back to Toronto rather than come back on the charter because
it was too uncomfortable. I recall suggesting to them that that wouldn't
be the most astute thing to do, because I would undoubtedly expect to
read about it in a Toronto tabloid the next day. Do you understand what
I'm saying? A plane had been chartered, and that, in and of itself isn't
unreasonable. It was an uncomfortable -- there were two little planes.
It wasn't a very comfortable journey. Again, we were accommodating folks
in these three cities. And there were government members -- dumb as bags
of hammers, if you ask me -- who were going to buy tickets and then charge
them back to the committee to travel home on a commercial flight from
Thunder Bay to Toronto. Have I got the two cities right, Ms. Elliott?
That, in and of itself,
is just a story. It's an accurate one. Ms. Elliott, am I wrong?
Mrs. Christine Elliott
Mr. Kormos: Ms. Elliott
replies. Well, let's not have any rewriting of history here. Stalin died
over 50 years ago. We shouldn't be rewriting history here at Queen's Park.
We then had House
leaders' meetings and discussions -- Mr. Wrye will recall that; he's sitting
there behind the Speaker's chair -- indicating that we expected Bill 107
to be lengthy. We also expressed -- we, the opposition members, told the
government members, "Are you guys nuts? You're advertising for three
days in the beginning of August, and you've got to advertise extensively
because you're appealing or addressing an ethnic community, amongst other
things, but then you're going to have advertise all over again."
You see, none of this
happened without the government's approval, because the government has
the majority of members on the committee. The committee has to approve
the subcommittee recommendations. When we were cleared of Bill 14, I remember
the subcommittee meetings, and I remember that it was opposition members
who suggested to the government, "Let's get moving on this. We've
got to get some ads out. We've got to get the legislative broadcast advertising,
which doesn't cost anything to do. And let's get going. We've got a list
already. Let's not wait for the ads to go out; let's start hearing submissions,"
and indeed we did start hearing submissions last week, November 15 and
November 16. It was opposition members who suggested that the committee
sit to 12:30 rather than the usual hour of 12. Ms. Elliott, is that correct?
Mr. Kormos: We also
indicated, opposition members Ms. Elliott and myself -- I remember asking
Ms. Elliott, "Is it okay?" I know she's got kids. She has three
sons who are teenagers now, and she's a very dedicated mother.
Mr. David Zimmer (Willowdale):
I'm coming back.
Mr. Kormos: "I'm
coming back," Mr. Zimmer says. I'm sure you are, Mr. Zimmer.
I remember us suggesting
to the government, "Let's start our committee hearings -- to start
dealing with this, four days a week -- a week after New Year's Day."
I remember the Chair of the committee -- do you remember that, Ms. Elliott?
Because if you want to tell what happened, let's tell everything that
Mr. Rosario Marchese
(Trinity-Spadina): Do we really need to know?
Mr. Kormos: Oh, I
think you'll be fascinated. See, the Chair of the committee, one Mr. Dhillon,
says, "January is kind of difficult for me." I said, "Why,
Chair, how could that be? Why would January be difficult for you? You're
being paid as Chair; surely you can chair the committee." He said,
"I'm supposed to go to India with the Premier." The Premier
is taking a junket to India in January. I said, "Well, Mr. Dhillon"
-- and I'm sure he is; he's of South Asian background, ethnicity. I said,
"That's okay. You don't have to go. Mr. Kular can go." Mr. Kular
is familiar with the region. He said, "Mr. Kular is going."
I went, "Oh." I said, "Tell you what; maybe Shafiq Qaadri
can go." Mr. Dhillon said, "But Shafiq Qaadri is going too."
And I said, "This is no longer a mini-junket; this is a full-blown,
full-fledged junket entourage." Full-blown, full-flight, junket entourage;
taxpayer-funded tours of India. I said, "Mr. Dhillon, surely your
responsibilities as Chair of the committee are superior to your interest
in going on a junket" --
Mr. Marchese: Transcend.
Mr. Kormos: -- as
Mr. Marchese says, "your responsibilities as a Chair transcend your
desire to go on a taxpayer-funded junket to India." Well, somehow,
somewhere -- and don't tell anybody about the junket, okay? Don't spill
the beans. If we can keep it in the room, the third floor won't pick it
up; the Sun and those people won't pick up on it. Look, I promise not
to tell anybody if you promise not to tell anybody, okay? Speaker, are
you in? Shh. Nothing about the junket that would interfere with Mr. Dhillon's
ability to -- you see, the point I'm trying to make is that Ms. Elliott,
with three teenaged boys, was prepared to say, "Notwithstanding that
it's the so-called winter break, I'm prepared to spend it here at Queen's
Park -- four days a week, eight or nine hours a day -- listening to submissions."
That's the way it
happened. We made that agreement in the House leader's office. The government
member of the committee agreed to it in the subcommittee, didn't he, Ms.
Elliott? Why, as recently as last week, the Attorney General was telling
you in this House -- and I believe the Attorney General because he's no
Charlie Harnick. Mr. Hoy understands what I'm saying. The Attorney General
said, "Well, we'll keep on meeting and hearing these people and their
concerns." Did you believe him then, Ms. Elliott?
Mrs. Elliott: I certainly
Mr. Kormos: She replies.
You know what? So did I. I believed the Attorney General. I was amazed,
shocked and awed to learn -- don't go away, Mr. Berardinetti; we're going
to be talking about you too in just a few minutes. I don't want to do
it in your absence.
Mr. Marchese: Are
you a member of the committee?
Mr. Kormos: Mr. Marchese
says, "Is he a member of the committee?" Yes, that's the whole
point. Remember last Wednesday? You wouldn't know that he was a member
of the committee, would you, Ms. Elliott?
I remember the parliamentary
assistant bringing to the subcommittee the request to have the minister
appear on the first day of committee hearings, and I remember Ms. Elliott
and I readily agreeing that we should adjust the agenda to include the
Attorney General. It wasn't a matter of showing good faith; it was a matter
of simply acting in good faith.
I remember the next
request, when Mr. Zimmer, the parliamentary assistant, needed permission
to bring the chair of the tribunal to the committee. Opposition members
of the subcommittee, Ms. Elliott and I, said, "Well, of course. We'll
accommodate. We'll sit later into the lunch hour to make sure that he
gets a 30-minute slot rather than the mere 20 minutes that were available."
We know this is a
contentious bill. We know that there are some very mixed views about it
out there in the province of Ontario. I understand those who advocate
for the bill; I understand what they're saying. I happen to disagree.
But when New Democrats, along with Conservatives, agreed to sit for however
many weeks it would take in the winter break to accommodate those people,
we knew we'd be hearing from advocates for the bill as much as we'd be
hearing from opponents. And whether it was in Ottawa, Thunder Bay or London,
none of which were particularly successful for the government, it just
didn't happen that way. I can't recall opposition members being anything
other than courteous to advocates for the bill. It was an argument. It
was a debate. It was a difference of opinion. As a matter of fact, there
are two very different perspectives on how you deal with human rights
abuses, how you deal with discrimination in a jurisdiction. New Democrats
just happen to believe that the identification of, the detection of, the
exposure of, the apprehension of discrimination should be a public function
in the public interest.
One of the most capable
parallels that I recall speaking to during second reading debate was the
comparison of the Human Rights Commission to, let's say, the crown attorney's
office. If somebody is a victim of a crime in this province, in this country,
you call the police, a public investigative body; you report a crime.
Police do their best to collect evidence, lay a charge, initiate a prosecution,
and then a crown attorney has to assess it and determine whether or not
there's a reasonable likelihood of conviction -- that is the test, isn't
it, Attorney General? -- and then prosecute it or, in the case of more
than a few frustrated victims, explain to victims that there isn't a case
here, that there's no reasonable likelihood of conviction. Is that the
test, Ms. Elliott? That's the test, as I recall it, for crown attorneys
We still have a private
system whereby, if Mr. Marchese has his car stolen, he can litigate. He
can sue the thief for conversion. Or should someone assault him, he can
sue that person for assault and battery. That's a private exchange in
a public forum, in a public courtroom. But it's in the public interest
that we prosecute crimes.
Of course there's
consideration of the victim -- increasingly, thank goodness. We've seen
that evolution in the last short while when we talked about victims' rights,
for instance, and ensuring that the role of the victim is not diminished
in the course of a public prosecution, in the public interest, of a crime.
We New Democrats very much see the Ontario Human Rights Commission as
the parallel of that crown attorney's office and police force. Are there
huge backlogs in our criminal courts? You bet your boots there are. Could
we solve those backlogs by saying, "I'll tell you what: If you're
a victim of a crime, don't bother calling the cops and don't bother going
to the crown attorney's office. Hire a lawyer and sue for assault and
battery, or sue for conversion, or sue for trespass"? That would
sure eliminate the backlog, wouldn't it? That would clean up that mess.
But we regard criminal
offences to be of such a serious nature that there's a strong public interest
in their detection, investigation and prosecution. We don't prosecute
criminal cases, crimes against you or you or you, in the specific individual
interest of you or you or you; we do it because we have an interest as
a community in suppressing crime. That's not to say that judges can't
and won't make restitution orders, or that they're not part of probation
orders. Any number of things can and do happen.
There is a clear difference
of opinion. We're not afraid of the arguments being made on behalf of
Bill 107. We're prepared to hear them. We're prepared to hear the proponents
of Bill 107 and understand why and how they believe that this is a superior
regime. However tedious the prospect might have been, Ms. Elliott and
I were prepared to sit for three weeks, four weeks, five weeks listening
to them. Why? Because we're gluttons for punishment? No. Because we believe
that people have a right to make those submissions. That's why we told
the government, "Let's start sitting in January." We've got
the winter break. We're coming back March 19. The bill will be ready for
third reading by March 19.
The Acting Speaker:
If I could interrupt for just one moment, I'd like to introduce Gary Malkowski,
a former member of the House, the member for York East in the 35th Parliament.
He served from 1990 to 1995, and he was the first deaf member of this
House. I wanted to introduce him while Laurie Scott was there, the member
The Acting Speaker:
I didn't know that she knew sign language. Welcome to the House.
Mr. Kormos: The opposition
parties have tried to be very accommodating. Has the government? No.
By Thursday, the next
day, when Mr. Rae made his presentation, he still hadn't received either
a Braille version or an html or text version that he could put into his
computer so the computer could read it to him. Not very accommodating,
is it? The Ministry of the Attorney General didn't give a tinker's dam
about Mr. Rae and his right to be involved in the process. It was simple
enough, because when I spoke to Ms. Stokes that afternoon, early afternoon
-- she's the clerk of the committee. Ms. Stokes, because she's the custodian
of submissions, arranged for Mr. Rae to receive an html or a text version
of the submission so that he could pop it in his computer or however it
got to him; whether it was e-mailed or not. So the clerks' office fulfilled
its responsibilities, made sure that Mr. Rae wasn't the victim of discrimination.
The Ministry of the Attorney General demonstrated disdain, indifference
and downright callousness. They're the one with all the big resources.
They've got staff coming out of their yingyangs.
Mr. Kormos: Well,
they do. The clerks' office is the opposite; it has the stressed committee
budget in terms of advertising and travel. They do. This last round of
-- what? -- 110 grand that the government spent on committee hearings
that it had no intention of ever holding didn't exactly help the solvency
of the clerks' committee travel budget.
We understand the
thrust and parry of adversarial partisan politics; we do. Quite frankly,
I think New Democrats can certainly give as well as we take -- maybe a
little better than most -- but we also have a true and genuine and real
passion about a bill that has this much significance, that has this much
impact, receiving full and thorough consideration, especially when the
government agreed. Hogwash, I say to the Attorney General, and I'm being
as parliamentary as my vocabulary permits me, when he says that he had
to bring in time allocation because Ms. Elliott was going to -- what were
you going to do? Suspend the committee?
Mrs. Elliott: Part
of the reason.
Mr. Kormos: My goodness.
I recall exactly what Ms. Elliott proposed. She proposed a method whereby
those people who had been denied the opportunity in their submissions
to make comments on the proposed amendments be given that opportunity.
The Attorney General says that it was back in August, way up in Thunder
Bay, that this member from Niagara Centre, a small-town member, a mere
backbencher, declared he was going to filibuster the bill.
Mr. Marchese: What
power you've got, Peter. I'm impressed.
Mr. Kormos: Well,
it took a long time for the Attorney General to get with it. That was
back in the beginning of August. In fact, if people are thoroughly honest
and read the Hansard, they'll understand that there was an exchange whereby
this backbencher from Niagara Centre -- we are, indeed, small-town Ontario
and maybe we're not as slick as big-city people. I don't wear expensive
suits; I understand that. I don't wear Rolex watches, and I don't have
a big fat Mont Blanc pen sitting in my pocket. I don't eat at -- I don't
know; where do these people eat in Toronto? I don't eat at Prego Della
Piazza or Bistro 990. But we do our best.
You see, the whole
government theme has been a vilification of the commission. Do you understand
what I'm saying? The whole government rationale for this legislation has
been a vilification of the commission, trying to create the impression
that somebody is incompetent or corrupt. They didn't say who. Is it the
front-line staff? Some incredibly outrageous allegations were being made
against them. When I confronted one submitter, one Mark Hart -- do you
remember that one? -- with the data from the commission for last year
-- 2005-06, if I remember correctly -- Mr. Hart said, "Oh, the commission
spins their numbers." "Well, shame on you, Barbara," I
said over his shoulder, because Barbara Hall was sitting two rows behind
him. I thought, that's interesting. The commission spins their numbers.
Let's see what Ms. Hall has to say. I said, "Ms. Hall, do you spin
your numbers?" She said, "Of course not."
What's the story here?
What's going on? What's the problem with the commission? Is it incompetent
staff or incompetent management? It's not a big corporation. It ain't
Weston. There's a pretty small number of people. Is it incompetent commissioners?
Which one is incompetent? Ms. Hall? Mr. Norton? Ms. Frazee? Tell us which
one. We'd like to know, if that's your allegation, if that's your raison
So New Democrats,
with the support of Conservatives, made a modest proposal. We said, "Why
don't we get some of these front-line workers in here to the committee?"
Because we heard some pretty incredible stories about delays. We said,
"Let's get some of these workers in here to find out about the delays."
Then there was a suggestion
to get commissioners in, and Mr. Zimmer said, "Let's get all the
commissioners in." I said, "Fine." It's what you said,
isn't it? And I said, "Fine," or words to that effect. We said,
"While we're at it, let's get some managers in here. Let's find out
what the hell has been going on there." Then we get the outrageous
proposition that the government has to time-allocate this, shut the door
on committee hearings, all because the member from Niagara Centre -- that's
me, by the way, folks -- wants all of the staff to appear. Cut the crap.
You know damned well that isn't what I wanted, nor what I proposed.
The fact is, your
government blocked from the get-go the attendance of any front-line staff
members, any OPSEU members. You blocked their participation in this committee
hearing. You sure as hell didn't know what they had to say, and you weren't
going to let them say it, nor were you going to let managers come. There's
something going on here. I'm convinced that this government is apprehensive
about what it is that the front-line staff people would have to say --
oh, not ones cherry-picked, hand-picked, by the ADM.
Barbara Hall wrote
you a letter. Barbara Hall appeals to you. She's your commissioner. If
you don't have confidence in her anymore, fire her. That's just so apparent.
If you don't have confidence in Ms. Hall, if you're not going to heed
her counsel, then fire her. I'm serious. Or are you going to wait till
Ms. Hall has tried
to temper her enthusiasm for Bill 107, but she has made no secret about
her support for the fundamental proposal. However, did she blow it when
she showed up and said, "By the way, we'd like to see the restoration
of appeals," huh? Did she overstep her bounds?
Mr. Robert W. Runciman
Mr. Kormos: Mr. Runciman
"I wish to express
my profound dismay at your government's notice to invoke closure and prematurely
end debate on Bill 107...."
Look, you can say
what you want about us; we expect it, coming from you. You're going to
allege everything under the sun, the moon and the stars about us. What
do you say about Ms. Hall? What axe is she grinding when she talks about
the premature end of debate? Is she full of crap, too, or is she just
stupid, or does she not know what she's talking about, or is she trying
to filibuster the bill, or is she trying to obstruct it from getting through
Come on, Attorney
General. Why is Ms. Hall calling upon you to avoid the premature end of
debate on Bill 107? Has she been turned? Is she some sort of dupe? Are
you going to announce some kind of conspiracy theory? You had enough confidence
in her to hire her; do you have enough confidence in her to heed her advice?
"I urge you to
withdraw the motion for closure. This should be a time to encourage discussion,
for consultation and for healing of divisions. All sides share the goal
of a stronger, more effective human rights system for Ontarians and care
passionately about human rights. It is crucial in this context to seek
common ground, for the sake of the people we both serve. Please"
-- please, please, please, Mr. Attorney General -- "let their voices
be heard," says Barbara Hall, your commissioner, not the assembly's
-- a hand-picked, partisan appointment.
I'd like the Attorney
General to come clean. Don't give us that stuff about Kormos promising
or threatening to filibuster the committee hearings in August in Thunder
Bay when in fact the argument was because one Mr. Berardinetti started
to get paranoid about our request to have staff members come up. I said,
"Oh, for Pete's sake, get with it. Don't be stupid. We're trying
to open the shutters here and get some light on this stuff to find out
what the hell is going on." And there was the clear suggestion in
his tone that I was going to filibuster. Oh, for Pete's sake. How dumb
is a bag of hammers? Useless; dumb as wallpaper. Filibuster, for Pete's
sake -- the government's got a majority. What's the matter with these
people? Read the standing orders. The last effective filibuster in this
Legislature was back sometime around 1989, give or take a year.
Suspend the hearings
-- Ms. Elliott has been as courteous, yet as effective, as engaged, as
adversarial yet accommodating, a member of that committee as you could
ever want. She's been nothing but productive in her role on the committee.
And the absurdity, the embarrassment of your somehow suggesting that,
oh, she was trying to bugger up the committee -- that is shameful. That
warrants an apology. She was doing her job as a committee member. I wish
some of your colleagues would do theirs, I say to the Liberals. Start
by reading the bill. Then, second, you can start by listening to some
of the folks who have concerns about the bill.
Mr. Runciman: Start
by listening to your own appointees.
Mr. Kormos: Mr. Runciman
notes that you can start by listening to some of your own appointees.
The very first presenter
to the committee was Toni Silberman, immediate past chair, Ontario, League
for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada. She gave an articulate and effective
presentation. Like some others, she expressed concern and dismay that
she wouldn't have a chance to consider, analyze and then comment on the
proposed amendments. On November 21, 2006, she writes expressing "grave
concerns regarding the government's motion asking the Legislature to invoke
closure on Bill 107....
"This bill ...
has been fraught with difficulty since its inception, including limited
and one-sided consultation on its drafting, reluctance to hold hearings
into its merits, and the ambush of the democratic process taking place
at the hearings by the last-minute introduction of proposed `amendments.'"
Somehow the Liberals
have managed to conjure up a sufficiently high level of arrogance so that
everybody is wrong but them; everybody is wrong but the Liberals. I caution
you, friends, about hubris.
Let me just speak for a moment -- because I've only got a few moments left. By God, I wish -- you see, this is the problem. The bill is capable and worthy of some significant and lengthy analysis and discussion in debate.
This is what time allocation does. Let's talk about your so-called commitment to set up a services centre. What do you mean? Like the Office of the Worker Adviser, so understaffed, so underresourced that the lineups aren't at the WSIB and WCAT tribunals; the lineups are at the Office of the Worker Adviser -- two years, three years, to get your case taken on? You haven't talked once -- Ms. Elliott has raised it a dozen times -- about the costing of this so-called legal representation. Your legal aid clinics limit and limit and limit the scope of the work they do for people and, of course, impose a means test at the same time. Your legal aid certificate system -- bankrupt.
Women aren't getting
representation in Family Court; they aren't. If any of you think that's
funny, I invite you to go down to a provincial court, family division,
some day and see the misery that's lined up in those hallways: beaten
women, abused women, who can't get representation because the legal aid
certificate has a cap on the number of hours and there's a precious few
number of family law lawyers with any competence whatsoever who will represent
them. In fact, they'll put a cap on the number of hours, because they
know they can't do it adequately and in a responsible way. Oh, please.
What a stupid sop. You expected people to fall for that? My goodness.
You don't give the people of Ontario very much credit; not very much credit
Oh, no -- you give
them more credit than we thought, because you slammed the door in their
face when it comes to committee hearings around Bill 107. You know full
well that the current lineup of people wanting to appear in front of that
committee could be accommodated during the winter months and this bill
could be reported back for third reading, should your government wish
it to pass through committee in time for the spring session. There's something
going on that you're not talking about, that you're not telling about,
that you're doing your very best to conceal. I think the Attorney General
simply cut and run. He can't handle the debate; can't handle it. The Attorney
General and the Liberal government embarked on a privatization process,
privatizing human rights and human rights advocacy here in the province
of Ontario. Opposition parties don't want anything to do with it, nor
do a whole lot of Ontarians, and you're afraid of the debate. You won't
engage in the debate. You run from the debate. You flee from the debate.
You silence those who are critics of your legislation and your policies.
And you call yourselves the government of democratic reform and democratic
renewal and openness and transparency? I say, shame on you. It's a disgusting
moment in the history of this government.
Ms. Scott: On a point
of order, Mr. Speaker: Because Gary Malkowski is here today without a
sign language interpreter and because of the closure on Bill 107, which
muzzles what is a basic human right, it's shame on you, the Liberal Fiberals.
The Acting Speaker
(Mr. Jeff Leal): I'm not sure it's a point of order.
Mr. Kormos: Further
to that point of order, Mr. Speaker: The government knew that persons
with disabilities were going to have an interest in this bill. For that
reason they ensured that signers and interpreters and other assists and
aids were available at committee hearings. I say to you that unless this
chamber, in and of itself, unless this assembly is going to be guilty
of discrimination against those very same people with disabilities, we
should be providing those same resources for persons with disabilities
sitting and attempting to be members of this province of Ontario right
here and now.
The Acting Speaker:
Mr. Kormos: You don't
say "further debate"; you rule on my point of order.
The Acting Speaker:
It's not a point of order, I tell the member for Niagara South.
Mr. Zimmer: I want to speak more directly to the issue of closure. That's what this debate is all about. This bill has been before this House now for about 200 days, and I think the common ground of all members in this Legislature, from all sides of the House, is that the system as it exists is in real need of reform, and essentially the reform is needed because the system has ground to a halt. We've heard about the backlogs and the difficulty in getting hearings and the long waits. That's not surprising, because the system is 40 years old. Our demographics in Ontario and in Toronto have changed dramatically in the 40 years since the legislation was first introduced.
Now, in the year 2006,
there is a whole new set of demands from a whole new diverse, ethnic,
cultural, religious community out there that has needs for an effective
human rights system that can effectively and quickly process their claims.
That's what this legislation is all about.
It's very difficult
for members of this House, members of good faith, whether they're on the
Liberal side, the Conservative side or the NDP side, because I think everybody
wants to see the system reformed. Certainly in the last 200 days, all
of the correspondence that's come in, all of the e-mail traffic that has
come in, all of the visits to our various constituency offices from constituents,
the debates we've had in this House, the five days of hearings and the
ongoing debate since we've completed those five days of hearings all centre
around, have a commonality about it, and the commonality is that the system
needs to be fixed.
We've had experts
in the human rights world come and say that the way to reform the system
is to move to what I'll refer to as the direct access model as contemplated
in the legislation. There are, of course, experts on the other side of
that debate who have appeared and communicated with us, met with us in
stakeholder meetings, who have another view, and their view is that the
existing system should be modified and adjusted, and that's the best system.
What all of those people have in common is a desire to fix the system.
What are these two
views that have emerged? There's the direct access view and "maintain
the system as it is but" -- I'll use the expression -- "beef
up the current system."
As I've said, I sat
through the five days of hearings and I've read through submissions. I've
read through the e-mail traffic, and when I read a submission or I hear
from one of the expert witnesses, whether it's the former chairs of the
commission or the human rights lawyers on one side of the debate, I listen
to it and I understand what they're saying. Within the context of the
argument they're making, the syllogism of it, it makes sense. When I hear
arguments from people who are opposed to our model and I listen to it
within the context of their argument and follow the syllogism, it makes
sense. So there's our dilemma: We've got good-meaning people on both sides
of this debate.
It's my sense that,
having been through the five days of hearings and gone through all of
the correspondence and so on, if we were to continue the hearing process
for another five days, another 30 days, another six months and receive
additional submissions for the next few months, at the end of that exercise
I dare say what we're going to have is a longer line of people on one
side of the debate -- that is, the people who support the direct access
model as contemplated in this legislation -- and we'll have an adding
line on the other side of the debate, people who want to beef up the current
What does a government
do, faced with that sort of a debate that's going on there? A responsibility
of government at the end of the day in dealing with these issues is to
make choices, to make decisions. That's what the art of government is.
When we're thinking about whether we should vote for this closure motion,
I think we have to ask ourselves: Are we, as a government, as a Legislature,
able to make an informed choice, an informed decision whether to proceed
with this legislation or not, or do we need more hearings, more submissions?
I would say to this House, this Legislature, that we've heard all of the
arguments. We've heard five days of hearings -- and I remember the hearings
in Ottawa, London, Thunder Bay, and two days in Toronto. The hearings
were structured: There was a supporter of the proposed legislation; there
was someone who was critical; there was a supporter of the legislation;
there was someone who was critical. And that's how the hearings evolved.
I think, in fairness,
if you asked any of the people on that committee -- whether they were
on the Liberal side or the NDP side or the Conservative side -- if they
answered the question objectively and fairly, thought the question through,
they would have to say to themselves at the end of the day, as I've said,
"Do I understand the issue here? Do I understand the pro arguments?
Do I understand the contra arguments?" And I do. I think all of us
in this Legislature, no matter if we had hearings for another 30 days
-- there's nothing further to add to the debate.
We're now getting
to the point where government has to take the responsibility of making
a decision, making a choice. It's time now to close the hearings off.
I think, and I can genuinely say on behalf of my Liberal colleagues, that
if there was a sense that there was something new that we could learn
from continuing with hearings, we'd want to continue with the hearings
and hear something new. Tell us something that we haven't already heard.
Tell us some theme that hasn't been developed almost ad infinitum. And
these themes and these submissions, as I say, are presented by experts
on both sides of the debate.
So the government
has taken a decision to bring the closure motion and to move ahead, to
take a decision by effecting closure and moving on to the next stage.
We'll continue the hearings that are set for next week, then we'll go
through clause-by-clause, and then it'll come back for a vote. I think
a responsible act of the government is to take that decision, make that
choice in good faith, knowing that it has all the arguments before it.
The government could
certainly, as I've said before, continue with the hearings, but ask yourselves:
Is there a greater benefit to be obtained by hearing another 25 or 30
arguments for the proposed legislation and another 30 or 35 arguments
against the legislation? What is that continuing hearing process or that
continuing debate going to serve? At some point, like most things in life,
one gets to the end of the book, and this has been a very thick book with
lots of information in it. But I don't think there's anything new to be
That's why we're debating
this closure motion: so that we can move on and get the legislation behind
us, because the greater benefit is to reform the system and move ahead
with it so that the people who have complaints can start having their
complaints dealt with quickly, effectively and fairly.
Mrs. Elliott: Thank
you for the opportunity to speak on this government's motion to choke
off debate on this very important issue respecting human rights in Ontario.
I'd like to say that each and every member of this Legislature has a solemn
obligation to respect the views and the rights of all of his or her constituents
to the best of his or her ability -- all of their constituents, and that
includes people with disabilities, people who are members of racial minorities,
people who have been victims of discrimination. These are among the people
who are the most vulnerable citizens in our society and in our communities,
the people who most need our support and protection.
Yet what have we seen
from this government? What has this government proposed to do to protect
the rights of these people? Nothing; in fact, I would say, worse than
nothing, because this is the government that has led these people along
-- these people who trusted in them to do the right thing and to do the
things they said they were going to do -- for seven months, promising
full public consultation, fair hearings, and open and transparent processes
with respect to the changes that they propose to make to our human rights
system. Yet what have they done? They've slammed the door in their faces,
told them that their views don't matter and to just go away. How can you
possibly believe that things could have gotten to this point since April
when this matter was first brought before this Legislature?
When this was first
raised on April 26, 2006, in this Legislature by the Attorney General,
there were numerous complaints from many organizations respecting people
with special needs and people who had been the victims of discrimination
that they had not been consulted with before this bill was presented.
This goes back to a time when the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was
proclaimed, which was before my time in the Legislature, but I'm told
by these people that they were assured by the Attorney General at the
time that they did not need an enforcement mechanism built into the act
because the Ontario Human Rights Commission was going to protect them.
Then they were faced
with this legislation and felt betrayed. So what happens? Then we go ahead
with this. The Attorney General stated in the Legislature on April 26,
"We need to continue to have public debate and consultation. That
must continue. We will continue to meet with those in the human rights
community to get their input as the bill progresses through the Legislature,
and I look forward to province-wide public hearings on this bill to take
place as soon as possible."
There we have it.
We undertook three days of travelling hearings in early August, long days
of hearings in London, Ottawa and Thunder Bay, as was rightly pointed
out by my colleague the member from Niagara Centre. It was agreed at the
time among all the members of the subcommittee of the justice policy committee
that we would do our very best to accommodate every person who wanted
to make representations before the committee because the matters were
so important, so we scheduled very long days in order to be able to do
that. Yet, despite that, there were still some people in the London area
whose views could not be heard, and we were assured that they would have
time to make their representations in due course. Fine.
We then go through
the committee hearings, and I would like to say that at those committee
hearings in London, Ottawa and Thunder Bay there were very many presenters
-- in fact, the overwhelming majority of presenters at that time -- who
indicated that they did not support Bill 107 and had very cogent reasons
for saying so. Even those people in the minority who represented that
they were in support of this bill did so with such significant caveats
to what they were saying that it was apparent, to some of the members
of this committee in any event, that they were not really supporting this
bill at all. The pillar in all of this that has been touted by the Attorney
General is a legal support centre, and we didn't see anything. All of
the presenters -- everyone, without exception -- indicated that the legal
support centre was critical to the success of this bill.
So we went on. Nothing
happened. We then hear that this matter is going to be coming before the
subcommittee to determine the rules for the Toronto hearing. We meet at
the committee. On October 26 we had a subcommittee meeting and ended up
with 21 detailed recommendations that the subcommittee wanted to advance
before the full committee on justice policy. There was a consensus amongst
all the members in the subcommittee that, as we had established by the
precedent in Ottawa, Thunder Bay and London, we would do our utmost to
accommodate all the presenters who wished to make public presentations
to us at the hearings in Toronto. That would include advertising again
in all the newspapers at a cost of $106,000 to taxpayers. Though it's
not about money, you have to wonder how this government can so cavalierly
toss away $106,000 of taxpayers' money when they really had no intention
of proceeding with these hearings in the first place.
We were prepared to
continue these hearings. We were prepared to sit as long as it took to
hear from every single person. I hear from the parliamentary assistant
that we've heard enough to make a decision. How do we actually know we've
heard enough until we actually hear from the people who want to make presentations?
How can we presume to know what every single person is going to say with
respect to this matter?
Nonetheless, we proceed
to the subcommittee. Then we hear on November 14, the day before the presentations
are supposed to commence, that the Attorney General wants to appear before
the committee on November 15. In the spirit of accommodating everyone
who wants to appear before the committee, Mr. Kormos, the member from
Niagara Centre, and I agreed: Of course the Attorney General should be
able to appear before the committee. The Attorney General, after talking
to the press at length about the dozens of amendments that he proposes
to make, shows up at the committee with a four-page backgrounder document
of little substance. He talks about the proposed amendments, doesn't actually
say what he intends to say, and uses a lot of magic buzzwords that people
want to hear because they want to believe that he is going to do what
he says he's going to do here. But the actual facts speak for themselves.
The Attorney General says he's going to establish a human rights legal
support centre and entrench it in the legislation and that he's going
to fund the legal support centre.
It became apparent
to me, as we proceeded to hear the first presenters, on November 15 and
16, that there was a huge amount of confusion among not only the members
of the subcommittee but the presenters who were appearing before the committee
about what this actually meant, in the face of the Attorney General's
comments that he was prepared to look at some amendments but was not prepared
to put any more money into the system. Well, how can you have a full legal
support centre without committing significant money to the system? It
just flies in the face of any kind of logic to expect that the members
of the committee, the presenters who wanted to appear before the committee
and the people of Ontario would actually believe that.
Because of my concern
about the degree of confusion and because of the concern that the presenters
have a right to know what it is that the Attorney General is proposing,
I suggested in the committee that we suspend the committee hearings until
the full text of the amendments became available -- in fairness to the
presenters -- which is not what the Attorney General said in this Legislature.
He said half of what the truth was here. He said half of it: that I wanted
to suspend the consultations. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What I wanted was for every person to have an opportunity, knowing the
full text of the amendments and knowing what the Attorney General's full
I know that many of
my colleagues want to speak to this, but I would also like to say that
one of the significant presentations that we heard was from Ms. Toni Silberman,
from the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith, who was the first presenter
after the Attorney General appeared before the committee. I would like
to quote from a letter that she has written to Premier McGuinty, of today's
"In a highly
unusual gesture, the Attorney General introduced proposed changes to Bill
107 mere minutes before the Toronto hearings began last Wednesday. We
were scheduled as the first presenters, and were therefore unduly prejudiced
by this action -- an action which effectively removed the existing bill
from the table and replaced it with a revised bill. A subsequent technical
briefing delivered by Ministry of the Attorney General's staff confirmed
our fears that the amendments were not, in fact, amendments, but further
amorphous promises with neither the fullness of thought nor the wherewithal
necessary to implement them."
I couldn't say it
any better myself, and that's what I was attempting to express to the
committee and to the Attorney General through the parliamentary assistant:
that it was essential, because the Attorney General was stating to the
members of the committee that he wanted to make these amendments, that
we should know exactly what the amendments were saying. Numerous other
presenters agreed with that. But probably the most telling of all are
the comments made by the current commissioner, Ms. Barbara Hall, also
in a letter of today's date, to the Premier. Sections of her letter have
been quoted, but there's another section that I think is quite important
It has been said that
one of the marks of a civilized society is the respect and protection
it affords to its most vulnerable citizens. Well, this government has
demonstrated very clearly that it does not respect our vulnerable citizens
and has betrayed their trust not once, but twice: in failing, first of
all, to consult with those people who will be most affected by this legislation
before bringing forward this bill as they promised, and secondly, in choking
off the debate and failing to hear from all of the people who have something
to say with respect to this bill, thereby committing a double betrayal.
This is a very dark
day in Ontario's history if this motion is passed: the day that this government
turned its back on our most vulnerable citizens.
Mr. David Orazietti
(Sault Ste. Marie): I'm pleased to join in the debate this evening on
the closure motion with respect to Bill 107, a piece of legislation long
overdue to be passed in the province of Ontario. I want to commend the
Attorney General for his efforts in bringing this piece of legislation
forward and for his willingness for broad consultation to take place on
this bill. As a member of the standing committee on justice policy, I
had the direct pleasure of listening to many of the concerns expressed
by those individuals who appeared before the committee.
I want to say a couple
of things this evening. First of all, our government is moving forward
to reform legislation that has fundamentally remained unchanged in 44
years. Reports have been done, evidence has been gathered, recommendations
have been made, and past governments -- both Conservative and NDP governments
-- failed to act on these recommendations, on these reports, to move forward
on much-needed human rights reform in the province of Ontario.
Today the opposition
parties suggest that there has not been broad enough consultation, that
there has not been enough discussion about the changes needed to move
forward with Ontario human rights reforms. I want to say otherwise, and
I'm going to reference some of the speakers who both appeared at committee
and who have also given their endorsements to Bill 107.
Let's take a minute
to check the facts, first of all, on the system that we've got in place
today, and what that means to Ontarians trying to get their human rights
issues dealt with and addressed. The commission takes an average of about
2,500 cases per year. The commission refers to the tribunal, on average,
50 to 100 cases per year. The commission provides legal support to only
50 to 100 of those cases, a far cry from the 2,500 a year that are submitted.
The average length
of time for a case to be referred to the tribunal is three to four years.
The Attorney General said it this afternoon: Justice delayed is justice
denied. There's no justice at all for many of these people. The average
length of a hearing is one year. Therefore, the average length of time,
from filing to resolution before the tribunal, is four to five years.
I don't know how anyone in this Legislature could possibly think that
that was fair and swift justice for many of these people who have very
serious human rights complaints.
On average, 30% of
cases closed by the commission are dismissed. Investigations done by the
commission are then redone by tribunal lawyers, if a case goes to the
Eighty-seven per cent
of the commission's budget is spent on processing, mediating, investigating
and litigating complaints. It's no wonder it takes four to five years.
to dismiss a case provide only broad written reasons and sometimes no
reasons at all. Parties cannot appear before the commission to present
their case. It's very problematic in terms of the present operations of
commissioned studies, which were then ignored, and both parties cut funding
to the commission when they were in government. Our government will stand
behind recommendations that have been made for more than a decade.
Let me share with
you some of the comments of a few of the presenters who appeared during
hearings last week. With respect, the Association of Human Rights Lawyers,
Mr. Mark Hart, appeared before the committee and he said this:
state of affairs is completely unacceptable and is notorious to anyone
who actually works on the front lines of the current system, as we in
the association do. This horrendous situation has not gone unnoticed.
That's what Mr. Hart
"In the year
2000, another blue-ribbon task force, this time headed by Justice La Forest,
formerly of the Supreme Court of Canada, released a report to reform the
federal human rights system, which is the same as the one in Ontario.
This task force crossed the entire country again and heard from everyone
who wanted to speak on the issue and came to the same conclusions as the
Cornish task force.
"The plight of
human rights claimants in this province has not gone unnoticed by the
international community as well, which, in 1998, condemned Canada and
this province for its backward and paternalistic human rights system and
urged Canada and this province to guarantee that human rights claimants
have access to a hearing.
What do we have today?
We have opposition members standing up and saying, "Let's drag this
process on and on and on" -- more process.
"If anyone thinks
that the current system is still working" -- this is what Mr. Hart
said at committee hearings, the committee hearings we had, unlike the
Conservative Party, which barely held hearings on anything. I think it's
fairly obvious that there's a difference there. "If anyone thinks
that the current system is still working, I'd ask that you take a moment
to sit with one of our clients to hear about the devastation they felt
when, after they've pursued their complaint through the commission's process
for so many years, they got tossed out with this little slip of paper
with this inscrutable reasoning.
"Bill 107 will
fix this by getting rid of the commission veto over whether or not claimants
are entitled to a hearing and ensuring that all claims get filed with
the tribunal and have access to a hearing, where the claimant will actually
get to interact with the decision-maker, participate in the process and
understand why their case wins or loses." It sounds fairly straightforward.
I can't understand the opposition to doing this.
"The next significant
problem in the commission is the inordinate and inexcusable delay. You've
heard about this, I'm sure, from your constituents, many, many times."
I know I have in our constituency office, about the human rights commission
and the present process. "The delays are horrendous at the commission,
and I'm sure there are a lot of statistics thrown around that you may
have heard of and may yet hear of at this committee hearing. The significant
one for our clients is that when a case goes to investigation, the average
time it takes for the commission to deal with the case is three years:
That's the average time. I have represented clients where the cases have
taken six, eight, or even 10 or more years," if you can believe that,
to go through this process. Yet I hear opposition members suggesting,
"Let's delay and delay and delay and delay the process of this bill."
"We are here
to say" -- here's what Mr. Hart said, so you should listen to what
Mr. Hart said, not me. Mr. Hart said this: "We are here to say to
this committee today that the fundamental structure of Bill 107 is sound
and is in keeping with the recommendations of the reports which have studied
these issues and is consistent with our international obligations.
"We are aware
that there are some who disagree, some who have been our colleagues in
the human rights community over the years, and we have seen the so-called
blueprint for reform which is being promulgated by David Lepofsky and
two other dissenters. No doubt you will hear about this blueprint in submissions
to come. I like to call this blueprint `two steps backwards.'" That's
how Mr. Hart refers to it.
It goes on and on.
It's quite easy to continue to refer to presenters who have come before
the committee to indicate their support for Bill 107.
According to Mr. Hart,
"Read the Cornish report, read the La Forest report, and see how
Bill 107 embodies the recommendations and will repair and reinvigorate
the human rights system in this province and make it a beacon for other
jurisdictions struggling with the same problems."
A number of other
presentations were made: Mr. Raj Anand, the former chief commissioner;
the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario; a former commissioner,
Mr. Tom Warner, who added his comments to the discussion and also endorsed
The time to act is
John Fraser, executive
director for the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, said, "The
move to a model where all complaints can proceed to the Human Rights Tribunal
with publicly funded legal supports, and where the commission can focus
on what it does best -- public education, research, advocacy and public
interest complaints -- is a huge step forward. In our view, Bill 107 could
produce one of the most advanced and progressive human rights systems
in the world." Yet we get delay, delay, delay from the opposition.
chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, also presented.
Ruth Carey, executive
director of the HIV and AIDS Legal Clinic: "I applaud the Attorney
General's legislation to reform human rights. Human rights and community
groups have asked for this for many years. We welcome this government's
commitment to human rights."
Lorne Sossin, a law
professor at the University of Toronto: "Reform of the human rights
system is long overdue....
"Given the discussions
that gave rise to this set of proposals and the many studies and consultations
that have preceded this round, it is difficult to imagine any views on
this matter remain hidden." Yet that's what we hear from the opposition
tonight: "Let's delay and delay and delay." We stand here to
talk about making important changes to the Ontario Human Rights Commission,
and members suggest that we've not listening to stakeholders out there.
I read stakeholder after stakeholder who has been consulted who endorses
the bill, yet we get those kinds of comments from the opposition. I'm
not sure where they're coming from. It's just bizarre sometimes.
I could go on and
on. Jessica Carfagnini of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres
executive committee: "Our centre was relieved to see the Attorney
General's introduction of Bill 107 and that this government will be proceeding
with long-outstanding human rights reforms to include the right of direct
access to a hearing."
There are pages and
pages of recommendations by stakeholders in this province who have said
it is time to move on. Opposing the closure motion for the sake of opposing
the closure motion is, in my mind, against the interests of Ontarians
who have said time and again, "Listen to the reports. We're happy
to see a government that's showing leadership on the human rights issue
in Ontario, that didn't just produce some expensive report, shelve it
and go on to make excuses as to why they're not acting on this legislation."
I want to commend
the Attorney General and our government for showing leadership on reforming
Ontario human rights, something that hasn't been done fundamentally in
44 years. It's long overdue. Let's get on with it.
Mr. Runciman: Thanks
very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that introduction from the Chair.
It was interesting
to listening to the Liberal member from Sault Ste. Marie talking about
the opposition. Not once did he reference the very serious concerns of
the Liberal-appointed chair of the Human Rights Commission, Barbara Hall,
whose letter was read in the House today by the leader of the third party
and by John Tory as well. They're trying to ignore the existence of the
heartfelt concern of the individual they felt was qualified to serve as
chair of the Human Rights Commission.
I want to say a couple
of quick things about the folks who have been speaking out in opposition.
We hear those stories about "delay, delay," which is not the
case at all, Mr. Speaker, as you know. Our Progressive Conservative representative
from Whitby-Ajax is Christine Elliott, who's a relatively new member to
this assembly but has been doing an outstanding job speaking out on behalf
of many people concerned about this legislation and all Ontarians; she
has done just a magnificent job. The House leader for the third party,
Mr. Kormos, Niagara Centre: One of the pleasures, if there are pleasures,
of going back into opposition after eight and a half years in government
has been the opportunity to work with him and sit in committee with him.
He has developed his own persona around this place. There's no question
about it. He doesn't wear a jacket, doesn't wear a tie. He can be a wee
bit outrageous at times. But I tell you, from an opposition perspective,
I don't think too many members can say that he doesn't make an enormous
contribution to this place in keeping the government on its toes, and
I applaud him for that. This is another case in point where he has once
again outlined the concerns.
I'm not going to talk
about the bill. I haven't sat in on the hearings. I sat in on some of
the Ottawa hearings, but that's about it. I want to talk about the process
here and what's happening with this government and the way they're approaching
I think this is essentially
about integrity, about honesty. We heard the Attorney General in the House
today. This is just another case in point of members of this government
taking liberties with the truth. My colleague Ms. Elliott talked about
this, where the Attorney General got up to defend what they're doing here
and talked about Ms. Elliott, the member from Whitby-Ajax, wanting to
suspend the hearings. Mr. Speaker, there are certain words I can't use
in this place, but what an atrocious example. This is the chief law officer
of the crown getting up and making a statement like that, suggesting that
Ms. Elliott was in agreement with the stoppage of these hearings and not
allowing hundreds of people to appear, people who have every right to
make their concerns known. He was suggesting, implying, that we were in
support of that and that Ms. Elliott, our critic, was in support of that.
That's completely false, and I think it reflects badly on the office of
the Attorney General.
The House leader of
the third party and I have been around this place a long time, and I don't
think we've witnessed the kind of performance we've witnessed from this
individual in terms of an Attorney General. We talked about the passing
of Ian Scott. We sat in this House with Ian Scott. We sat in this House
with so many honourable people -- Roy McMurtry -- people who have filled
that role as Attorney General with dignity, with respect for all members
of this place. What we've seen from this Attorney General on so many occasions
is that kind of partisan rhetoric -- not just partisan, but going over
the line with allegations like those he made with respect to the member
from Whitby-Ajax, which is truly unfortunate. It does this place no good.
It does all of us as honourable members no good. This Attorney General
has nothing to be proud of. We were baffled, as House leaders, when we
went through these discussions. He blames us for this. Well, the reality
is that he seems to -- I call Mr. McGuinty and his Attorney General the
Laurel and Hardy of Ontario politics. McGuinty, as Laurel, is always saying
to the Attorney General, "This is another fine mess you've gotten
us into, Ollie; another fine mess you've gotten us into." And it's
one mess after another, not just for the members of the government but
for the people impacted by the messes the Attorney General creates.
I guess we have to
surmise that this is the creation of some kind of legacy, that the Attorney
General wants some kind of legacy when he leaves this place. He doesn't
want it just to be pit bulls. As the leader of the thirty party mentioned,
we think we heard more witnesses on pit bull legislation than this Attorney
General is allowing with respect to this very significant foundation legislation
for Ontario dealing with human rights for everybody in this province.
He gives more time to pit bulls. That's the reality and of course he's
embarrassed by it. So what does he want to do? And then he blames us for
this and for Bill 14. We talked about this also, trying to have agreements
as well with respect to paralegals. We said, "Bring in stand-alone
paralegal legislation and we can deal with it in a timely way." What
does he do? This legacy builder throws everything but the kitchen sink
into an omnibus bill, which creates all sorts of difficulties for every
member of this Legislature in terms of coping with this. We did it in
an agreeable way, with negotiations with the House leader of the government,
and then at the end of the day, what do they do? They bring in over 100
amendments again. This is the kind of operation the Attorney General and
the McGuinty Liberal government is operating. They don't know what they're
doing. They don't know what they're doing from one day to the next.
He blames everybody
else for it. He talks about our critic causing the problem and the House
leader for the NDP causing the problem. It's not his fault and there's
no responsibility on his part. That's the message we hear over and over
again from this Liberal government. When anything ever goes wrong, "It's
not our responsibility. Oh, we took advice from experts." But then
when you ask them who those experts were, of course they will not reveal
the names of experts. What does that say about honesty and integrity?
The Premier gets up and says, "Well, now it's my responsibility,"
once the heat was on with respect to coal-fired generation. They were
blaming it on experts, and we want to know who those experts are. The
Premier tries to deflect by saying, "No, it's really my responsibility."
Well, were there any experts? Our critic for energy, Mr. Yakabuski, has
posed this question on a number of occasions: "Were there any experts?"
I think there's a serious doubt that there were any experts. This is another
fabrication on the part of the Liberal government of Ontario, led by one
Dalton McGuinty, who has to assume complete responsibility for the lack
of honesty and integrity in this Liberal government.
Mrs. Maria Van Bommel
(Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): Certainly, it has been a very interesting evening,
with lots of good debate. I sit on the standing committee for justice
policy. It's a real honour to sit with the members from Whitby-Ajax and
Niagara Centre and my colleagues.
As we discuss the
whole issue of human rights and the code, I still think it's wonderful
and an absolute honour to be able to sit and discuss that and debate it.
We're in a country and in a province where we can do that. We have human
rights here, something that a lot of people in this world don't even enjoy.
I think that is a real privilege, so I want to thank all the members of
the standing committee for that opportunity. I think it's a privilege
and an honour to sit with all of you.
But along with that
honour and that democratic right comes responsibility. The responsibility
of a government and of standing committees is to come to a point of going
beyond the debate and going beyond the hearing and starting to make decisions,
because if we don't come to a point of making decisions, then we are in
danger of becoming inactive as a government, and possibly even being paralyzed.
I have certainly heard
many different sides to the debate. We've heard from many people, and
I think honestly we've heard both sides quite well. I think we need to
come to that point where we need to start debating what we've heard and
we need to start moving forward with the amendments and the decision-making
One of the things
that this bill will do is free the commission to deal with systemic problems.
I think that's a very important thing to have happen. There is really
nothing to be gained by forcing citizens to go one after another with
the same complaint, trying to win one-offs all the time. When people come
forward and they have an issue and they win, it should mean that the entire
system is examined, to make sure that it doesn't happen to other people.
How often do we hear people say they go through this so that no one else
will have to? Yet that's exactly what this system, as it currently stands,
forces them to do.
So I want to see this
move forward. I think we need to move. When we say that justice delayed
is justice denied, I think we have to take that very seriously as legislators.
We need to move forward. We need to provide that justice. We need to provide
those human rights for our citizens.
The Acting Speaker
(Mr. Joseph N. Tascona): Further debate? The Chair recognizes the member
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant):
Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant, Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity. We even
look alike sometimes.
I appreciate the opportunity
to address the government's time allocation of this proposed legislation,
Bill 107. I took a look at Hansard, going back four years ago. I don't
know whether the Attorney General will recall. On September 30, 2002,
Mr. Bryant spoke out against the time allocation motion, at that time
calling it a "guillotine motion." We see somewhat of a transformation
in this minister of the crown, now our Attorney General. Essentially,
four years later, we have an Attorney General who has stolen some pages
from the book of Maximilien Robespierre of French Revolution fame, sending
public debate on a flawed bill to its fate under the guillotine. I will
point out that Robespierre himself was guillotined, allegedly face-up.
Can you imagine how that would feel to have the blade come down and you
are forced to watch it come down?
So this change of
heart on closure indicates to me that the McGuinty Liberals will basically
say anything, whether it's true or not, if they think they can get an
extra vote or ram through or jam through this kind of legislation. We
all know this is the case. Anything will be said if required. I suggest
that we have members opposite who may pay lip service during a campaign
for greater protection of some of the rights that we're talking about
but will vote no on something like this.
This is where we see
what I consider a fallacy on democracy and human rights in this case,
coming from the McGuinty Liberal government. Prior to election, Liberals
opposed time allocation; today they support time allocation. They claim
to support human rights but refuse to listen to input on actually improving
their human rights legislation.
I give an example
of another bill. This was last month. Bill 57 was a private member's bill
put forward by myself which proposed amendments to the Ontario Human Rights
Code. If passed, it would have restored property rights not only to landowners
but also tenants in the province of Ontario. When it came down to the
vote, I was pleased to see that several members of the NDP joined forces
with the opposition to vote in favour of land rights and responsibilities.
It was neither a left nor a right issue. It seemed to be an issue where
members opposite were coerced, if you will, to vote against that bill
and to vote against what I consider and what much of rural Ontario, land-owning
Ontario, would consider an important amendment to the human rights code.
So I'm very disappointed that this particular piece of legislation is
being rammed through. Very simply, I'm disappointed.
Hon. Michael Bryant
(Attorney General): Let me start by saying that the government doesn't
have the luxury of choosing between human rights reform without time allocation
versus human rights reform with time allocation. There's really only one
option here under the current circumstances.
There's no question,
if you look at the history of this reform and if you look at the history
of this bill, that there has been no amendment to the human rights complaint
system in 44 years. The leader of the official opposition was right to
say that the code has been amended, and it has. He mentioned that Mr.
Elgie amended it; Attorney General Scott also amended it. But he referred
quite proudly to Premier Robarts's creation of the human rights system.
It was a proud moment for his party, it was a proud moment for Ontario
and it was a proud moment for Canada when Premier Robarts created it.
But since then, there has been no change to the system.
It's also interesting
that the leader of the official opposition would talk about the way things
worked, I think he said, in 1982. He was referring to the way they did
it in 1982 and the amendment of the Conservative member who amended the
code at that time. It doesn't work that way around here anymore. I sat
in justice committee beside Mr. Kormos when I was in the opposition, and
I learned a lot; I did. Mr. Kormos has a particular perspective on history
as to what happened to this place and to the committee system. Up until
1990 and the way things worked up until 1990 -- and I'll let him speak
for himself -- it worked; it seemed to work. There was a certain consensus
that was achieved. After 1990, he told the rookie MPP from St. Paul's
sitting in opposition beside him in justice committee -- I remember Mr.
Kormos saying to me, "I wish you had been here when it worked well.
I wish you'd been here when you saw that the committee system worked well
and when you saw that the parliamentary system worked well." The
member for Niagara Centre said that with some sincerity.
The Acting Speaker:
All those opposed, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the
(Ms. Lisa Freedman): The ayes are 36; the nays are 23.
CONSIDERATION OF BILL 107
Mrs. Christine Elliott
(Whitby-Ajax): I'd like to speak just for a moment about integrity, and
in this specific case the lack of integrity shown by this Liberal government
with respect to Bill 107, and the lack of respect that they've shown to
the members of this Legislature and to the hundreds of presenters who've
been lined up to speak to this matter for several months. For several
months, they've been led along by this government in the expectation that
they would have a fair hearing before the justice policy committee. Actually,
up until November 20, all of us in this Legislature and all of the presenters
were under the impression that they would have this opportunity, before
this government last night brought down the guillotine and choked off
the debate on this fundamental issue so important to all of Ontarians.
OF BILL 107
OF BILL 107